Shaving off a few extra bucks on the original model, Samsung wants to wrestle with your wallet to champion the premium-entry market. Is the Galaxy S20 FE shaping to be a force of its own or is it a stripped-down version of the premium S20?
The Korean giant is not sitting on its laurels when it comes to catering the length and breadth of the smartphone segment. Be it bang-for-the-buck or stripping you of your family heirloom to make room for that shiny new device, Samsung’s got you covered. But the ₹50K market is devoid of any serious competition, mainly because the camera-leading Google Pixels are a no-show and Huawei is in a worse state than the Titanic. That leaves room for OnePlus, Vivo and others to grab this spot. Pouring only one or more phones a year in this category to make up for space. Apple’s iPhone 8-esque SE is here but those are for serious Apple fanboys who cannot see past the ecosystem. Even the iPhone 11 is limping down to the ₹50K mark but with that measly 64GB storage you might as well carry a portable hard drive at all times and it's a year old now. So, now that we’ve painted a somewhat vague picture of the ₹50K price segment, how does the Galaxy S20 FE fare?
The FE is designed in ways you’d expect something with an S20 badge to hold up. Solid in the hand, premium finish and seamless curves. What’s not to like here? In ways, the soft matte finish at the back reminds us of the OnePlus 6T Silky White variant. It lets you grip the phone fearlessly and even feels so, dare I say, perfect on the skin. I like holding it, I wish Samsung put this on all their devices.
Aesthetically the metal bands around the smartphone and the camera module are borrowed straight from the Note20 Ultra 5G. So it’s more akin to the premium Note series than the Galaxy S which is not bad considering the Note20 Ultra 5G launched just a month ago.
Display and Audio
Bezel-bashing is also what you’d expect from a smartphone of this price. Thin black borders running around the edge to pull you into its AMOLED FullHD+ display. It’s crisp and bright. Standard practice for Samsung displays but the best thing is, it's also rocking 120Hz refresh rate. Scrolling through Instagram and articles on Stuff website is smooth, to say the least.
It’s not a curved display like we’re used to seeing on the higher Galaxy S devices. Here you get a flat display which I personally prefer. Watching Netflix and YouTube is absolutely fantastic. You can notice even the slightest colour temperature differences in the long exposure shots on Our Planet ‘Jungles’ episode which showcases the efficiency of ants and, in ways, this display. The blacks are inky and just the very best. I don’t like how the contrast is handled though. It feels a bit overcooked for something that boasts the S20 badge. Highlights, too, are boosted and wash the colours out. Nothing alarming though. This is still a fine display. We like to get nitpicky on Samsung displays because they’re Industry-leading and even the slightest drop in quality is easily noticeable. That said, it’s still the best display you can find at ₹50K.
You’ll also be enjoying quality audio which the FE can do in stereo just like its higher-priced brethren. The sound is loud and clear for Netflix or YouTube sessions.
There’s a whopping 32MP camera in the front cutout hole for selfies. Around the back, you get triple cameras that have become pretty much a 2020 smartphone standard. The 12MP (Dual Pixel) + 12.0 MP + 8.0MP do primary, ultra-wide and telephoto duties with ease.
You can now capture Night mode shots on all three lenses, something that is not possible on many devices. So if you’re looking to cram all of your buddies in one shot in a poorly-lit environment, you can jump into ultra-wide on Night mode and do it.
Portrait shots also have Samsung’s flare with fancy bokeh effects to keep you and your cat entertained. Pro video pretty much seals the deal for camera nerds looking to add depth of field and maintaining consistent exposure throughout videos. The cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio for videos in Pro Mode is my absolute favourite. Whether you’ll make use of its Pro mode is up to you, we might just end up shooting more fun videos for our Instagram using this. Here’s the link to a short Pro Video we shot on S20 FE.
It’s clear that photos come out fantastic if the subject is lathered in sunlight. Night shots seem to have their focus on the social media game because as soon as you zoom in, all detail is tossed out.
Galaxy S20 FE’s biggest achievement is the details and colour temperature it maintains. Every shot is crisp and social media-ready. If you’re in an evenly lit environment or outdoors, the colour and contrast between the three lenses are near identical which is a rare feat in smartphones with multiple lenses. This is a premium camera and unlike the slightly-cheaper OnePlus 8T, the FE doesn’t falter in the camera department.
Focusing is rapid even if you’re shooting in burst mode. Although, swiping down on the shutter button to shoot in burst mode feels a bit fiddly and unintuitive if you’re looking to capture something quickly.
Performance and UI
Samsung moves at a snail’s pace when it comes to updates to UI and introducing new features. One such Android feature which made its way to Pixel and now OnePlus devices is the quick share toggle in the default camera app. It won’t change your life but it's always good to be ahead of the curve.
The Samsung One UI also comes with its own set of bloatware which includes not just Samsung’s own set of apps but also Microsoft’s too. They’re neatly tucked away in folders so you can easily ignore them or sit and delete them from one place.
We’re likely to crown the OnePlus 8T the winner for performance because it's a wee-bit faster and a whole lot cooler. The FE runs hot. Simply clicking photos for 5-10mins will heat the top half of the smartphone considerably. Genshin Impact gets the smartphone toasty as well which is fine because the game is console quality and can push all smartphones to their absolute limits. Camera heating issues are a bit concerning.
Battery too is what you’d expect. A full day of light use, anything above that and it will drain quickly. Depending on your use you can quick charge the FE or plonk it on a wireless charger to juice it back up.
Another chink in FE’s armour are ghost touches. Although I never really felt the problem in my everyday use, we used the Touch Screen Test app to put it to test and it’s very clear that the S20 FE adds artefacts (ghost touches) when you do a pinch movement on the touch screen.
The thing definitely flies through apps and camera processing. It does get a wee-bit warm during extended photo ops but nothing that will boil your mitts. Graphically demanding games like Genshin Impact can send the heat management for a toss and will definitely show dips in performance.
India also gets only one 4G variant Exynos 990. The international 5G variant with Snapdragon won’t be available in India which is sad because that would’ve made the FE a force to reckon with.
Aside from the regular set of features you also get wireless charging, reverse wireless charging and an in-display fingerprint sensor that are available on premium Samsung Galaxy models.
For now, the FE is carving out a new kind of Galaxy device. Ones that are meeting favourable features with sliced pricing. My only complaint is the heating issue which can cause a lot to not open their cameras for long or worse, not make use of its fantastic Pro Video mode.