2020 has seen Samsung move into a “lite” mode as regards its flagships. Earlier in the year, we were treated to the Galaxy S10 Lite and the Galaxy Note 10 Lite. And now we have one for the S20. Only this one does not come with a “Lite” moniker. Samsung has instead chosen to call it the Galaxy S20 FE, with FE standing for Fan Edition.
Plastic can look…well, different (and even “fantastic!”)
And well, fans are definitely going to like the slightly different look and feel of the Galaxy S20 FE. The front is obviously a Super AMOLED 6.5-inch Infinity O display with a punch-hole notch in the center, but it is the back that is going to catch attention. Yes, the camera arrangement is the now-standard sensors arranged in a rectangular unit on the top left section (and it juts out in a manner that worries us), but it is the colors that will make the phone stand out. The Galaxy S20 FE is available in Cloud Red, Cloud Mint, Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, and Cloud White, and they do look rather different from what we have got accustomed to of late. We got the Cloud Mint edition and it definitely had a look that was as refreshing as its name, with the back tapering over to meet the sides.
Samsung has gone with a carbonate/plastic back on the S20 FE and while this will raise the hackles of those who insist that glass looks more premium, we just confess to developing a fondness for the material. It is less prone to smudge and feels good to hold. Everyone has their own definition of premium and to be honest, the Galaxy S20 FE slots right into ours. It does not have the class of the original S20 but compensates with a funky look that makes it live up to the “Fan Edition” moniker. That said, we can see people getting a little annoyed at the fact that Samsung has opted to go for Gorilla Glass 3 protection on the front – it is a good enough layer but we are seeing even mid-segment devices with Gorilla Glass 5 these days, and this IS a flagship after all.
All said and done, the Samsung S20 FE feels good to hold, and at 159.2 mm is not exactly large (there are no small phones these days) and while the jutting out camera unit does worry us a little, it is slim enough at 8.4 mm and in best Samsung tradition, is relatively lightweight for its size at 190 grams. The Galaxy S20 FE looks like a Samsung flagship with its big camera lenses on the back, but its shades give it a very funky feel. And well, it comes with an IP68 rating, so it can survive a drop in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to half an hour. No, we do not intend to go swimming with it, but it is always handy to have.
Hefty hardware, with hardly any corners cut
While premium flagship purists might frown at the materials of the front and back of the S20 FE, its spec sheet is largely to bring nods of approval from them. The display is, of course, vintage Samsung and is delightfully bright and colorful, and what’s more has a 120 Hz refresh rate for those who love to scroll smoothly at super speed, or want the latest cutting edge graphics (with supported apps). The use of the Exynos 990 chip rather than the Snapdragon 865 is likely to trigger some dispute but we can be assured of a flagship-level performance, paired with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, expandable.
In terms of camera arrangement, Samsung has opted for a three-camera set-up rather than a four-camera one, as is becoming the rage. But none of the three sensors are token ones – the main sensor is a 12-megapixel one with optical image stabilization, the ultra-wide sensor another 12-megapixel one and rounding things off is an 8-megapixel camera that delivers 3x optical zoom and even claims to deliver decent 30x optical zoom (we are not really expecting too much there, to be honest). In the front is a 32-megapixel snapper. And onboard are all the bells and whistles you would expect in a Samsung flagship’s camera, including Single Take, which takes 15 seconds of footage and auto generates a variety of content (stills, video, filtered snaps, etc.). For the record, we do not miss the 108 or 48-megapixel snappers – 12 can be good enough as Messrs Apple and Google have shown us time and again.
Powering this is a large 4500 mAh battery, which comes with support for a 25W charger, but with a 15W charger in the box (an odd decision for a flagship). There is also support for fast wireless charging 2.0 and also the option to charge other devices wirelessly. On the software side, there is OneUI on top of Android 10 (with Dex onboard to connect to other devices), with an assurance for Android updates for three years. Connectivity-wise, the phone ticks the 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC boxes, although some would want a 5G option. The presence of stereo speakers is welcome, although the absence of a 3.5 mm audio jack is a little saddening (we are in no mood to give up our wires easily).
Unsettling the competition!
At its price of Rs 49,999, there is no doubt that the S20 FE packs a formidable punch and has the specs and design to be called a flagship in its own right. And neither is it pure coincidence that it is being launched at around the same time as the likes of other flagships such as the OnePlus 8T 5G and the Pixel 4a, besides a few other worthies. It certainly has the specs to totally unsettle them, and allied with Samsung’s formidable brand equity could well follow in the footsteps of the bestselling Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite.
Just how well it performs will be revealed in the coming days in our review (and there will be comparisons), but as of now, we can safely say that the S20 has a lite avatar, and the fans will love it because it is not a lightweight at all!