Samsung has had a lot of major releases this year. My desk is littered with Galaxy devices, from the S20 Ultra to the Tab S7+ and the Galaxy Z Flip; I’m sort of glad Samsung asked for the Note 20 Ultra and Z Fold 2 back, if only so I could thin the herd a bit (not really though, I still miss the Z Fold 2 every day).
But the best Samsung phone isn’t always the most expensive one. The Z Fold 2 retails for an eye-watering $2,000, and while I love its unique form factor, it’s entirely unrealistic to suggest average consumers go out and drop that kind of cash on a phone. That’s why I was excited to check out the Galaxy S20 FE, which brings all of the best features of the S20 lineup to a three-figure price point.
The best part of the FE is that it just feels like any other S20.
My review unit came in last Friday, and while it’s still a bit too early to give a comprehensive review, there’s no embargo tied to this phone, so I figured I’d at least share some of my early thoughts for anyone looking to buy one once it launches on October 2.
First off, while I understand the knee-jerk reaction most consumers will have to the S20 Fan Edition’s polycarbonate (read: plastic) back panel, I think it’s important to hold the phone in your hand before completely denouncing it. This plastic back is more or less identical to the one on the Note 20; it doesn’t creak or flex when you apply pressure to it, and it’s less fragile than glass while still allowing for bidirectional wireless charging.
The Galaxy S20 FE comes in six colors, most of which are soft, nearly pastel shades that I’m very into, so I was a bit disappointed to get the comparatively plain Cloud Navy finish, but I’d be lying if I said this color didn’t still look great, and it’s much more neutral than the Cloud Mint I was really hoping for. More importantly, it’s completely matte, a trend I’m delighted to see Samsung embrace with its late 2020 releases.
Something else I’m enjoying with the S20 FE: the flat display. I praised the Note 20 for the same reason; curved glass looks and feels great, but I’ve run into too many issues with accidental touches lately on devices like the Note 20 Ultra, and flat glass solves that problem without sacrificing much, if anything, in terms of usability and ergonomics. I suppose the only downside is that the S20 FE has larger bezels than most of Samsung’s other recent releases, but they’re still pretty slim, and hardly worth complaining about.
Elsewhere, the S20 FE feels like any other S20 model; it’s blazingly fast, with the same 120Hz display and Snapdragon 865 processor as the rest of the lineup, and One UI 2.5 works exactly as you’d expect. It’s been gray, cold, and rainy through the weekend, so I haven’t had much chance to test out the S20 FE’s cameras just yet, but I suspect they’ll be similar in performance to the cameras on the S20+ and Note 20 — both of which I’ve been pretty positive on.
I think that’s really the best part of the S20 FE; there’s almost no discernable difference between this model and the other S20 variants, save for a flat display and plastic back. Those trade-offs (if you really want to call them that) save you $300 retail versus even the baseline S20, and the FE is already showing up at various retailers for $100 off before it’s even started shipping.
Of course, Samsung is also offering its usual huge trade-in values for select Samsung, Apple, and Google phones, which can knock the S20 FE down to as low as $250. At that price, it’s a no-brainer, but even at its retail price of $700, the Galaxy S20 FE seems like a steal compared to the rest of Samsung’s flagship lineup. I’ll cover specifics like battery life and camera performance in my full review in the coming days, but so far I’m feeling great about this phone.
Budget flagship done right
Everything great about the S20 line in a more affordable package
The S20 Fan Edition ditches the typical glass backing for a plastic one, and features a completely flat 120Hz display, but it’s otherwise nearly identical to the rest of Samsung’s S20 lineup. You get the same Snapdragon 865 and One UI 2.5 software, all for hundreds less with no huge compromises.