After much hype and speculation, Samsung has released the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, or FE – a lower-priced entry point into the S20 range. Despite being the cheapest of the lot, though, the FE punches well above its weight as an alternative to its big brothers.

Design

Aesthetically, the S20 FE is a sophisticated-looking phone with a few key differences from the rest of the S20 line-up. The screen is flat instead of curved, while the polycarbonate back has a matte metallic finish rather than shiny glass. The hole-punch selfie camera sits right in the middle of the top edge of the screen, while the two buttons – volume rocker and programmable side button – are on the right-hand side.

The phone is available in the widest array of colours in the S20 range: navy, lavender, mint, red, orange, and white. Our review unit was navy, which I found to be a nicely elegant and understated colour scheme.

My one complaint about the FE’s design is the rear camera housing. It’s huge, and sticks way out from the back, making for a pretty jarring bump. When you consider that lower-priced smartphones like the TCL 10 Pro have managed to figure out how to make the camera array sit perfectly flush with the surface, it’s disappointing that Samsung can’t make its camera housings even a bit thinner.

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Features

Let’s get this out of the way first: no, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack, with the only physical port being USB-C. I’m perennially disappointed when flagship phones leave this out – why do value and mid-range phones still have them, and yet premium ones don’t? – but I recognise this ship has probably sailed. Oh well. Le 3.5mm jack est mort, vive le buds.

Like other Samsung premium phones, the S20 FE features an under-screen fingerprint sensor, which works just fine, though it’s optical rather than ultrasonic. There’s also the option for face unlock, which is fast and easy (though unfortunately less useful than it otherwise would be, in these masked times).

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One thing that should have Samsung fans dancing in the streets: the side key can be natively mapped to get rid of Bixby entirely. While Samsung’s much-maligned answer to Google Assistant is still installed on the FE, you can at least divorce its function from the side key through an easy-to-access menu. Gone are the days when you accidentally hit the key and launch Bixby when you were meaning to do something else. At last.

As is rapidly becoming standard for premium and even some midrange phones, the S20 FE also offers a 5G model – though that’s not really news (at least for Android devices, anyway; I do note that Apple made a big song and dance about the iPhone 12 finally having 5G more than a year after the competition).

Performance and Display

The big news for the S20 FE: we here in Australia get the Snapdragon 865 processor, like the US, instead of our usual Exynos offering. You don’t even get Snapdragons in the rest of the S20 range, so this is a big step up for Samsung, and one they’ll hopefully continue with the S21 (or whatever they decide to call it). Comparable phones like the Pixel 5 and the LG Velvet only pack 765G chips, so the S20 FE already has a significant advantage when it comes to processing power, even if it only has 6GB RAM.

Software-wise, the S20 FE ships with Android 10 and OneUI 2.5. One big plus for future-proofing: Samsung has guaranteed three generations of Android updates for all Galaxy S phones from last year’s S10 series onwards, so look out for Android 11 coming to the FE soon.

The 4500mAh battery is nice and robust, and supports up to 15W fast charging as well as wireless charging. A full day of use, including video streaming and camera, only ate through about half the battery, which is solid – though take this information with the knowledge that we had 5G disabled, and that tends to suck a battery dry a lot quicker. In any case, for the price point, this battery is a great deal.

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The 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display is lovely – definitely up to Samsung’s usual high standard. Its 2400 x 1080 resolution puts it just above the comparable display from last year’s S10 lineup (the S10e, with its 2280 x 1080 5.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen), but honestly, it even stacks up pretty well against my S10 5G and its 6.7-inch 3040 x 1440 Dynamic AMOLED display. That might be partially thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate – a significant step up from last year’s 60Hz screens, which makes scrolling and swiping as smooth as silk. Absolutely no complaints here.

The flat screen is a departure from the higher-end waterfall displays on the other phones in the S20 range, but really, I don’t think much is lost between a curved screen and a flat screen anyway. The trade-off on price is probably worth it.

Camera

In a word: exceptional. The rear three-camera array delivers crisp and sharp images in most lighting situations at 0.5x, 1.0x, and 3.0x zoom, with digital zoom going up to 30x. Though you naturally expect some image degradation at such high levels of digital zoom, the end result is still pretty good quality. The front selfie camera is also good – it may not be as versatile as the rear array, of course, but it does the job it’s supposed to, and does it well.

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Outside, at 1x zoom.

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At 10x zoom.

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Outdoor closeup at 3x zoom.

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Indoors – note the sharp and fine detail.

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Selfie camera!

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Taken in night mode.

Verdict

At $999 for the 4G and $1099 for the 5G model, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is extraordinary for its price point. While you can pick up a 5G Google Pixel 5 for the same price as a 4G S20 FE, the Pixel 5 only comes with the Snapdragon 765G processor and a 4080mAh battery. If you’re looking to jump on board the Samsung train and want the phone that will offer the best bang for your buck: this is, unquestionably, it.

Pros

  • Sophisticated and classy design
  • Snapdragon 865 processor
  • Good battery life
  • Beautiful 120Hz screen
  • Great value for money
  • Fantastic rear camera array

Cons

  • Bulky rear camera housing
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Only 6GB RAM

RATING: 9.5/10

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