Phone

Galaxy S20’s 120Hz screen refresh rate is quite taxing on battery life

Samsung was quite late to the party in equipping its phones with high screen refresh rates. While smaller brands like ASUS, OnePlus, and Razer started offering screens with a 90Hz (or faster) refresh rate as early as 2017, the South Korean smartphone giant stuck to the usual 60Hz on Galaxy flagships. With its 2020 flagship devices, however, the company jumped straight to 120Hz refresh rate, and using one of those phones is quite a fantastic experience.

However, a higher screen refresh rate also means higher power consumption and shorter battery life. No wonder Samsung choose to power its Galaxy S20 series phones with the highest capacity batteries we’ve ever seen inside its flagship smartphone lineup. Our review of the Galaxy S20+ noted that activating the 120Hz refresh rate feature takes a significant toll on the phone’s battery life, but we did not quantify it in absolute numbers. The folks over at AnandTech have now published an extensive analysis showing the impact of a 120Hz refresh rate on the battery life of Samsung’s newest phones.

According to the tests conducted by the popular publication, the 120Hz mode has quite an enormous impact on the battery life of the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The tests were performed on both Exynos 990 and Snapdragon 865 variants of the Galaxy S20 smartphones. In the first image, you can see that the baseline power draw in the 60Hz mode was 472mW, and the power draw in the 120Hz mode was 656mW.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 120Hz 60Hz Baseline Power Consumption Comparison Black Screen

The power consumption difference of 184mW doesn’t seem like much, but the power consumption over the entire day can be quite high. This test was performed with an all-black screen, and the airplane mode turned on. Now imagine the amount of power the 120Hz mode would consume while displaying usual content and when all the radios are working together.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 120Hz 60Hz Power Consumption Comparison Black Screen

In the second image, you can see that the power draw in the 60Hz mode on the Galaxy S20 phones seems higher than the Galaxy S10’s power consumption in the same mode. This seems to indicate that Samsung didn’t optimize the power consumption on the Galaxy S20 series as well as it did on the Galaxy S10. Moreover, the Exynos 990 versions of the phones seem to draw less power in both 60Hz and 120Hz modes when compared to the Snapdragon 865 variants.

In the last image, you can see the actual battery life results of the Exynos and Snapdragon variants of the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra and compare them with a bunch of Samsung and non-Samsung phones. Despite the power draw being lower in the Exynos variants in the airplane mode, the Snapdragon variants seem to last longer in the web browsing test. This could point towards more power-efficient radios in the Snapdragon chipset, but we can’t be entirely sure about it.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 120Hz vs. 60Hz Battery Life Test

In the web browsing test, the Exynos variant of the Galaxy S20 Ultra lasted 12.28 hours in the 60Hz mode and 10.18 hours in the 120Hz mode. The Snapdragon variant of the device lasted 14.05 hours in the 60Hz mode and 11.33 hours in the 120Hz mode. The power consumption difference between 60Hz and 120Hz modes seems to be anywhere between 20 percent to 30 percent, depending on the task and the processor. This goes on to show how taxing the 120Hz screen refresh rate can be on the battery life.

Even the ASUS ROG Phone II displayed a 25 percent shorter battery life in the 120Hz mode. The Google Pixel 4 XL and the OnePlus 7 Pro, with their 90Hz screen modes, showed a difference of just 10 percent in terms of battery life when compared to the 60Hz mode. We think that Samsung should offer either an excellent middle ground with a 90Hz option or implement an adaptive refresh rate feature that adjusts the screen refresh rate between 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz, depending on the task to offer better battery life.

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tswfootball
tswfootball

I understand there is rigurous testing here, but I’m not sure how much we should trust those kind of “browser tests”.

My s20+ on 120hz definitely lasts longer than what the s8 did when it was new.

neelsn007
neelsn007

You must have a snapdragon variant? My Exynos S20+ gives me about 3.5hrs screen on time, on 120hz mode, worse than I used to get on my regular S8 back in the day….

tswfootball
tswfootball

No I have the Exynos version. SOT is always relative so hard to comment on that.

BuybAfter 2 weeks now I feel like the battery life on 120hz is similar to how my galaxy s10+ was on WQHD 60hz.

mrmobileperformance
mrmobileperformance

I sure hope that reviews like this won’t keep Samsung from enabling the 120 Hz refresh rate for WQHD+ resolution. Some of us will gladly sacrifice battery life for performance.

siaho
siaho

check the source in this article as they selectively cherrypicked the good parts here – it’s hardware limitation, we will never get wqhd+ @120Hz. Most likely rumour spread by samsung to boost sales…

Gunter2
Gunter2

Good article. Very detailed!, My son has the ASUS ROG phone and at the high refresh rate it does drain his battery faster while gaming. But the battery on the S20 range is still good enough to get through a day under normal usage unless one is gaming for hours and hours on end. Whether one has 20% or 40% battery remaining at the end of the day, it’s still going to be charged for the following day. @Cavalero90 with his dynamic mode idea is definitely right. It would be a good intelligent battery solution.

Cavalera90
Cavalera90

I get good battery life on my 990 S20+. So I’m not going back to 60hz, the difference in user experience is just too big. But I rather have a dynamic mode, which switches to 60hz when I watch a movie/YouTube or content on the screen is static. I don’t need 120hz when idling or typing (as I do right now)

CRKT
CRKT

Rather not switch back to 60hz to get better batterylife, but there are no way I would leave home for a day without my charger for the S20 Ultra. Only comfort is that it charges up stupid fast. More annoyed with the random freezes while browsing flipping through gmail, link sharing to messenger broken and that horrible oil smear in peoples faces due to overdoing skin smoothing while the rest of the picture is in focus or the weird halo effects on cars/people due to slow/bad processing photos if it´s slightly darker outside… Samsung got plenty to fix with the… Read more »

leonho708
leonho708

S20+ consumes less than S10+, which should mean it’s optimized better, since it’s 6.7 inch comparing to S10+’s 6.4…… and S10 is 6.1 inch only, thus consumes the least…… so the statement of S20 series not better optimized than S10 series seems inaccurate.

Gunter2
Gunter2

I agree, I don’t have S20, I’ve Note10 plus, but my brother upgraded from S10 plus to S20 plus, and has more juice left at the end of the day than he had with S10 plus.

neelsn007
neelsn007

I’ve just gone from a s10+ to s20+ both exynos and my SOT (60hz mode) is worse on the s20+ than it was on my 1 year only S10+ 🙁