Samsung has had considerable success making budget phones that offer specs far better than what their price tags would suggest, but in the flagship segment, the company’s only attempt at making such a phone has been the Galaxy S20 FE. The S20 FE made waves when it launched last year, sporting much of the Galaxy S20 series’ flagship features at a crazy good price of just $699 in the US.
The Galaxy S20 FE sold very well, going as far as slowing down the shrinking of Samsung’s global phone sale figures in the last quarter of 2020, at least according to one market report. And while some units suffered touchscreen issues that Samsung is still trying to fix, the overall experience offered by the S20 FE made a solid impression on customers around the world.
But the Galaxy S20 FE came out six months ago, and things have notably changed since then. For example, Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 for just $100 more than the Galaxy S20 FE, and it also brought out the big guns in the mid-range segment with the Galaxy A52, which comes with a slew of flagship-grade features at a fraction of the price.
Does the Galaxy S20 FE still hold up well today, or have the last six months not been kind to Samsung’s ‘flagship killer’?
The Galaxy S20 FE, six months later: What’s good
As the title of this article has already laid out, the Galaxy S20 FE is still an amazing phone. The Galaxy S21, S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra may be the latest and greatest flagship offerings from Samsung, but the Galaxy S20 FE manages to do everything almost as well. In fact, most folks won’t find any practical difference in day-to-day use, at least when compared to the Galaxy S21 and S21+, except maybe lesser battery life if they buy the Exynos 990 variant of the S20 FE.
Even with the Exynos 990, the Galaxy S20 FE performs great, and with the Snapdragon 865 variant, efficiency is excellent, as well. The 120Hz display doesn’t have the fancy adaptive refresh rate tech of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the S21 lineup, but it’s still quite good and hits the sweet spot between size and compactness. The touchscreen issues were no doubt frustrating for affected users, but they seem to have been alleviated with recent software updates.
The cameras also hold up incredibly well today. Except for missing features like 8K recording and Director’s View, the Galaxy S20 FE offers camera quality that’s on par with the Galaxy S21 and S21+. Of course, that’s mostly because the S21 and S21+ don’t really bring any camera upgrades over their predecessors – you need to buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra for an out-of-this-world photography experience, as nothing else in Samsung’s phone lineup compares.
Battery life is, as you would expect, only impressive on the Snapdragon variant of the phone. It manages to last an entire day for us, and that’s with the 120Hz refresh rate enabled (but with 5G turned off). As mentioned earlier, the Exynos variant lags behind its Snapdragon counterpart as far as efficiency is concerned, with many reports of it failing to get through 24 hours off the charger. Still, you can eke out 16-18 hours of use, which isn’t exactly bad for a flagship device.
Also, our opinion on Samsung’s decision to go with a polycarbonate back instead of glass remains unchanged: We think it’s a great idea when you get down to the practicality of it. The Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t require a case as it is nowhere near as slippery as its cousins, and if you drop it, you will only have to worry about glass breakage on one side of the phone (unless you’re really unlucky and the camera’s glass covering takes a hit).
Last but not least, the Galaxy S20 FE comes with stereo speakers and a water and dust resistance rating that’s identical to Samsung’s latest flagships. And it also offers a major advantage over those flagships: full-fledged Samsung Pay support. The S20 FE can make payments over both traditional magnetic card readers and over NFC terminals and is the last high-end phone from the Korean giant to be able to do so.
The Galaxy S20 FE, six months later: What’s not so good
For a phone that’s priced as aggressively as the Galaxy S20 FE, it’s hard to find any major faults. Indeed, this phone has just one, that it was launched in a variant powered by the Exynos 990 even after all the criticism Samsung received over the chip’s quality, both from customers and shareholders. Having the Snapdragon 865 variant in every market would have made the S20 FE a much better deal. That’s something that could still happen, but it’s not going to change the fact that millions of customers had no access to the superior variant when the S20 FE hit retail shelves last year.
Minor drawbacks of the Galaxy S20 FE include a fingerprint scanner that’s not as good as that of the competition (or the one on the Galaxy S21 series) and that it comes with a 15W charger in the box instead of a 25W brick. None of these are deal-breakers, though.
Should you buy the Galaxy S20 FE today?
The answer to that question depends on a number of factors. If you’re looking for a new phone today and have $699 to spare, you can stop reading and get the Galaxy S20 FE right away. We would recommend the Snapdragon variant if you can get your hands on it, but the Exynos variant will serve you just as well unless you’re a discerning customer who needs the best of the best.
If you’re not in the market for a phone right now, you might want to wait and see what the Galaxy S21 FE brings to the table. The sequel to the S20 FE is expected to launch in the second half of the year, but we should have a pretty solid idea of its spec sheet through rumors and leaks in the coming months. Given how even the new Galaxy S21 and S21+ are so similar to the Galaxy S20 FE, we don’t expect the Galaxy S21 FE to be too spectacular, but nothing can be said for certain at this time.
Finally, if you aren’t interested in a flagship phone, then you might want to look at the Galaxy A52 (read our review here). It’s got features such as a 90Hz display, stereo speakers, water resistance, 4,500 mAh battery with 25W charging, and the latest software and a guarantee of three major OS updates. There’s also the A52 5G, which comes with a 120Hz display, a faster processor, and 5G support. The Galaxy A72 is an option as well (our review), especially if you want everything you get with the Galaxy A52 but also want a bigger screen and a zoom camera.