Samsung Galaxy S20
Dimensions: 151 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm (5.9 x 2.7 x 0.3 in)
Weight: 163 g (5.7 oz)
Screen: 6.2-inch, HDR10+, 120Hz,1440 x 3200 pixels, 20:9 ratio
CPU: Exynos 990 / Qualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865
GPU: Adreno 650
Rear cameras: 64MP, 12MP, 12MP
Front cameras: 10MP
OS: Android 10.0, One UI 2.0
Welcome to T3's Samsung Galaxy S20 review. We've gone hands-on with the South Korean manufacturer's new range of flagships (including the top-end device in the range, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra) to bring you everything you need to know about the new handsets.
To make the review as easy as possible to navigate, we've split it up into several sections: design, screen, camera and hardware, so you can get a comprehensive look under the hood of the Samsung Galaxy S20.
Let's save your time and deliver your our overall verdict first: the Samsung Galaxy S20 is a great phone. Compared to the enormous S20 Ultra it's a veritable pocket rocket, with many identical utilitarian, premium features in a much smaller package. It loses out in some areas: it doesn't have that enormous 108MP, 100x zoom camera system and the battery is lower by almost a fifth, but at £400 less, it's arguably better value for anyone except serious smartphone photography enthusiasts.
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Samsung Galaxy S20: Design and screen
At 6.2 inches the Samsung Galaxy S20 is hardly the biggest phone in Samsung's lineup. With the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra looming over it, it's not even the biggest in its own range. Nevertheless, the practically bezel-less screen, interrupted only by a tiny punch-hole is more than enough for everyday tasks and looks great, even if it's not the sumptuous widescreen movie and gaming experience you could find on the S20 Ultra.
However, at 6.2" it's almost unfair to compare it to the massive Ultra. The S20's AMOLED screen is crisp and clear, displaying HQ Youtube videos, movies and games alike with no softness. Likewise, the speaker offers great power with very little of that "tinny" nature smartphone speakers can so often have. However, with no headphone jack, the top-quality wired headphones on the market can't be used: you're restricted to USB-C or Bluetooth.
Although it's not as expansive as the rest of the range, the screen more than holds its own. The 120Hz refresh rate provides clean, silky-smooth movement as we swipe through the phone's home screen options, and it's hard to describe just how good this is: the slick motion almost feels tactile as you slide through screens and scroll through apps, all with Samsung's excellent One UI 2 interface.
It's a perfect compliment to the easy-to-navigate Android 10, combining to create a genuinely enjoyable user experience. Even something as simple as navigating apps has become a thing of beauty, and over the two weeks I used it, it did not get old, to the point it'll be tough to go back to a lower refresh rate. If you think your current smartphone looks smooth in motion, just wait until you try this.
The phone's curved gorilla-glass back looks great and is iP68 protected against water and dust, for ease of mind. The design is smooth, streamlined and reflective of its premium innards.
Samsung Galaxy S20: Camera
Samsung has placed great stock in the camera equipment of all three devices, and they don't disappoint. They are the star of the show, dominating a big chunk of the back of the handsets with their distinctive rectangular modules.
The 12MP ultra-wide and wide-angle lenses and the 64MP main camera present a combination that's clear and responsive with excellent colour balance. The wide angles proved great when capturing groupshots and scenery snaps and even without the S20 Ultra's massive 108MP, exceptionally fine points can be captured in mid-range shots. The telephoto conveys depth as well as detail even with the absence of a time-of-flight sensor.
The S20's 30x zoom function isn't nearly as powerful as the gargantuan Ultra, but it's still powerful enough to pick out information from very far away and give budding smartphone photographers "distance flexiblity", the ability to adjust shots on the fly while making the most of your own position.
However, at max zoom, the softness is inevitably present and detail is lost, so it's best to use the functionality to adjust your photos at mid-range. For example, here's a gallery of three photos depicting the same church, taken at 1x, roughly 5x and at maximum 30x zoom. They were all taken while standing in exactly the same spot, and it illustrates just how impressive the zoom function really is. Check it out below:
While its 8K video functionality is a technical marvel, most people (those without an 8K TV) won't get to enjoy it to its fullest extent, as they won't be able to view it for a while until the technology becomes more widely available.
The excellent (and very useful) scan-to-capture mode makes a welcome return to the flagship Samsung range. In the few weeks I tried the phone for, this was one of my most-used features. Simply hover over a document and snap it, and the phone will prompt you to save it as a document and process it as a scanner would, easily exporting it as a PDF.
It's one of a host of features that appear across the S20 range, with software such AR emojis, a dedicated food-shot mode and AI-assisted image capturing aiding photographers to get the right shots. For the most part, the AI assistance is welcome in lining up scenery or mid-range object shots, but it does struggle slightly in placing faces in the right quadrant.
The punch-hole selfie camera's 10MP sensor is a far cry from the Ultra's massive 40MP front-facing camera. Consequently, you'll find it difficult to pick out background details. For example, in the selfie shot below, it's tough to pick out the book titles in the background of this image.
The foreground selfie itself comes out perfectly fine and clear, but it's all very standard issue at this point and nothing to write home about, especially if you want one of those over-the-shoulder snaps with Niagara Falls or the Brandenburg Gate as the backdrop. However, I'm nitpicking: the excellence of the rear-facing camera module more than offsets these slight discrepancies.
Samsung Galaxy S20: Hardware
Now comes the guts. The three models in the Samsung Galaxy S20 range are all equipped with the same processor, the Exynos 990 CPU (a Snapdragon 865 in the US), and an Adreno 650 GPU. It's a powerful pocket rocket, able to process complex files (such as, oh we don't know, super-high resolution pictures of hedgerow elephants) without breaking a sweat. With less work to do in the S20 than the S20 Ultra, the phone whistles along at lightning speeds, taking even the most complex task with ease.
The phone packs a 4,000mAh battery, which will do at the very least a full day of moderate use, but it's not quite the workhorse of the S20 Ultra, which rocks a huge 5,000mAh battery. Given that the S20 has a lot of the S20 Ultra's most premium features, battery life does suffer as a result of this.
If you keep the screen on a medium brightness setting and stick to 60Hz, you'll easily get more than a day and a half out of the Samsung Galaxy S20's ample battery life. However, why buy a premium phone if you won't use premium features? If you've got its buttery 120Hz on constantly and you're consuming media, gaming or moving files around for great lengths of time, you will see battery life suffer, and you'll have to start thinking about charging it by late afternoon with very heavy use. But for most users, it'll get through your working day without issue.
The phone also includes the now-familiar underscreen fingerprint sensor and facial recognition of its predecessors. However, the fingerprint sensor is quite sluggish, sometimes even taking three or four tries before unlocking effectively. Compared to a rival flagship (I was testing the Oppo Find X2 Pro at the time, which proved very zippy) it's not the most intuitive fingerprint unlock at all.
Audio on calls usually came out crystal clear on both ends, whether they were through the S20 or via a separate, third-party app such as Whatsapp, but we did have slight issues with the speaker phone functionality, as the mic struggled to pick up my voice clearly when I was more than a metre away, while indoors. For multiple parties communicating via a single phone on a speaker call, this could present a minor issue.
Samsung Galaxy S20: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S20 is, without a shadow of a doubt, an excellent flagship smartphone. Is it perfect? No. Is it too much phone for some? Yes. Is it awesome, packed full of great features, with a really enjoyable design and UI? Yes.
The Galaxy S20 is a powerful pocket rocket and a great start to Samsung's next generation of flagships. It's got powerful insides, a great camera system and 5G support across sub-6, mmWave, and NSA.
For users that want an awesome 5G Android flagship and either don't care about 100x zoom cameras or don't want to shell out over £1,299 for a phone, the Samsung Galaxy S20 is among the best phones on the market. It's certainly more than powerful enough to rival anything Apple can throw at it. Despite a few minor niggles, the Samsung Galaxy S20 comes very highly recommended.