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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Fan Edition) - the best S20 for the price
4.9Overall Score
Name: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Fan Editon)
Price (RRP): $999
Manufacturer: Samsung

I was more than a little perplexed to see a shiny Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Fan Edition) turn up for review. After all, we have covered the range at launch. What more could you do to the best 2020 range of Google Android phones?

Well, it turns out that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G is quite different from what we usually see in Australia. Instead of the Samsung Exynos chipset/modem, it gets the Qualcomm SD865 5G chipset/modem, a 120Hz Super AMOLED screen, 4500mAh battery, and 6/128GB/microSD to 1TB – all in the box.

But wait there is more. It is a paltry $999 and comes in six new colours. To put that in perspective you are getting the latest Qualcomm SD865 flagship, powerhouse chipset for the price of the mid-range SD765G. Sure there are some trade-offs in screen resolution, camera and accessories, but they are barely noticeable. We will identify them in the review.

Did someone say KFC? If you want a Galaxy S experience on a budget, this is it.

Australian review: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G Model SM-G781B/DS (dual sim)

  • Australian website here
  • User Manual here (it is a PDF so check downloads)
  • Price: 8/128GB $999 and 8/256GB $1249
  • Colours: Cloud Navy/Lavender/Mint/Red/White/Orange
  • From: Samsung on-line and major CE retailers*
  • Elevator pitch: No-compromise, budget version of the worlds best Android smartphone
  • Warranty: 2-years
  • Country of Manufacture: not stated but assume South Korea
  • Samsung is a South-Korean global supplier of smartphones, tablets, TVs, home appliances and more.
  • Other Samsung news and reviews here
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

* Grey market – no Australian warranty

We issue the standard warning that you must buy the genuine model with Australian firmware as it works on all Australian Telco carrier LTE bands and can make a 000-emergency call (not 911) without a SIM.

From what we can tell the marketing name is SM-G718B/DS, but the real model is SM-G718BZBDXBA.

The last letter is A for Australia, and the ZBDXB are part of the colour selection and memory selection.

We have named and shamed the major grey marketers here. If you are going to spend this much money, get a genuine ‘Made for Australia’ model.

First impression – EXCEED

It is hard not to like a 6.5″ 20:9 (tall and slim) colourful phone. The review unit is Cloud Navy, but I have seen other colours, and they are well, out of the ordinary in a boring sea of black.

Not to spoil a good review, but as an expert, I immediately see some compromises. The flat 60/120Hz screen is 2400x1080p and has wider bezels. It has 6/128GB. The camera is a 12M+8+12MP, and the selfie is 32MP binned. It comes with a pithy 15W charger, but it is 25W fast charge capable. Well, at least it has a charger in the box – Apple shame on you. Oh, and the buds are missing. The biggest change is a polycarbonate painted back over an alloy frame.

Despite those omissions – which are needed to meet the price – it is a Galaxy-class device through and through. Fans will find the FE a temptation over the current crop of SD75655G phones. I know I would go for this.

A note to Samsung Australia – where are the full specs or have you gone all fruity?

Screen – EXCEED

Size6.5″
TypeSuper AMOLED with a small centre O-hole for the camera
Refresh is either 60 or 120Hz – not adaptive
Resolution2400x1080p
PPI/Ratio407/85.96% STBR/20:9
Colours
Brightness
Contrast
Delta E
Vivid
Natural
Temp
RGB adjust
HDR
16.7m
400/675 typical/max (the S20 Ultra 5G is 860 max)
Infinite
2.5 sRGB and 4 DCI-P3 – excellent
DCI-P3
sRGB
five-position cool-to-warm
Yes
HDR10
Daylight
AOD
Edge Mode
Dark mode
Blue light
Yes
Always-on-display is customisable
Customisable
Yes
Yes
DRMDRM Info finds HDR10+ screen Widevine L1 HDCP 2.3
Netflix: SDR, YouTube/Prime: HDR
GamingIf a game does not support 120Hz, it switches to 60Hz
ProtectionNot specified (likely GG3) and pre-fitted plastic screen protector
Fingerprint
Face ID
Optical under glass – Test: 9/10
2D – Test 7/10

As it is unlikely that you will be switching from a regular S20, you won’t know the difference between this and the QHD display, nor miss the ultrasonic fingerprint reader.

It is a good, bright display, similar to those that Samsung supply to companies like OPPO et al.

Processor – EXCEED

SoCQualcomm SD865 7nm
1 x 2.84GHz, 2 x 2.42GHz, 4 x 1.8Ghz
GPUAdreno 650 Compute Open CL: 3247
Game useThe SoC will play all modern games at maximum frame rates
RAM6GB LPDDR4X
Storage128GB (100GB free) UFS 3.0 and a 256GB option
Androbench 1541.65/669.79 Mbps sequential read/write – very fast
micro-SDUp to 1TB
Geek
Bench 5
Single:907
Multi:3248
There is currently no faster Android-based CPU/GPU
Throttle
15-minute test
Max: 235,446 GIPS, Average:224,144  –  10% loss over 15 minutes
CPU temp reached 85°

The compromise here is 6GB of RAM, but it does not affect performance or multi-tasking.

Comms – EXCEED

Wi-FiWi-Fi (QCA6390) 2×2 MU-MIMO
Signal Strength 5Ghz – distance from ASUS AX1100 router
– 2m: -27dBm/866Mbps
– 5m: -55dBm/866Mbps
– 10m: -65dBm/650Mbps
Excellent strength
BluetoothBT 5.1
GPSSingle/Dual
NFCBoth NFC Paywave and MST Mag Stripe
USB-CType and speed
SensorsCombo LSM6DSO Accelerometer/Gyroscope
Magnetometer AK09910
Ambient Light sensor STK31610

We are not a fan of the combo Accelerometer/Gyroscope – it is 5-axis accelerometer and its quite sensitive, especially for screen rotation. It also removes the separate barometer, step and proximity detectors.

LTE and 5G – EXCEED

SIMDual sim (active at a time) hybrid (microSD takes sim 2)
Ring toneDual
SupportVoLTE – carrier dependent – generally yes
Wi-Fi calling – Yes
UL (Mbps)Ping 32ms
Test: 9.7Mbps
DL (Mbps)Test: 14Mbps
LTE BandNot stated. Optus site shows
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 26, 28, 32, 38, 49, 41, 66
5GSub-6Ghz n78 for Australia only enabled
We can’t definitively test 5G at present due to extreme variations in speed test outcomes
4G Test-105dBm in a 3-bar reception area (average)
Found next tower at -107
Found adjacent tower at -115
Good antenna design

It seems to have a good antenna design. It has the Telstra Bluetick for regional use.

Battery – EXCEED

Battery mAh4500mAh rated/actual 4370
ChargerSupplied: 5V/3A and 9V/1.67A/15W USB-A to USB-C
Can use any USB-C PD 3.0 charger and charger up to 25W
Test:
50%C 15W – 1 hr
100% 15W – 2 hrs
50% 25W – 30 minutes
100% 25W – 1 hrs fast charge
Qi15W Qi capable (5V/3A or 9V/1.67A)
Test: achieved 9V/1.268A/11.41W which is standard for Qi efficiency
4.5W reverse charge
Test: achieved 5V/.625A/3.13W which is standard for Qi efficiency
Tests
Most at 60hz screen
Video Loop test:
60Hz 1080p/50%/aeroplane mode – 19 hours
120Hz as above –  16 hours
Typical use 4G, Wi-Fi Test
60Hz – 16.9 hrs
120Hz –  14 hrs
100% load Battery drain –  7.5 hrs
T-Rex – 60Hz 685 min 3030 frame
T-Rex – 120Hz 330.5 min and 6561 frame
Drain minimum 314mA
Drain maximum 918mA
Screen off: mA (about 25 days)
Screen time
60Hz – 10 hrs
120Hz – 8 hrs
This is great but a 25W charger is even better

You have to remember that this has a powerhouse SoC with a 60/120Hz AMOLED screen as well as 5G – all contribute to shorter battery life. All our tests were with 5G disabled.

The 120Hz screen has about a 25% power penalty, and the lack of an adaptive switch means leave it on 60Hz until you need it for games. It is a phone that you will need to charge every 24 hours. We recommend buying a USB-C  PD charger like the Belkin 68W GAN with dual USB-C output ports. Or buy a 15W Qi charger pad – you will not regret it.

Sound – EXCEED

SpeakersStereo earpiece and down-firing speaker
Dolby Atmos support
AMPDual Cirrus Logic CD35L41
BT codecsCodecs are SBC (standard), LDAC (Sony), aptX/HD (Qualcomm), FLAC, ACC etc.
MicDual NC
3.5mmNo 
Tests dB
Anything over 80dB is excellent
Media – 73.5
Ring – 77
Alarm – 80
Earpiece – 55
Handsfree use is fine with adequate volume and some mic noise reduction

The sound stage is surprisingly wide appearing to extend 10-15cm past the device with hints of spatial sound as well. There is excellent Left/Right separation.

It has Dolby Atmos for music and gaming as well as an EQ with Normal, Pop, Classic, Jazz, Rock and Custom settings. The EQ can tweak the frequency response, but as you will read next, its native signature is excellent.

We also like the Adapt Sound that lets you select an age – Off, Under 30, 30-60 and 60+ and it boosts known weaker frequencies. So if you are a typical sexagenarian with compromised hearing, you will hear more on a Samsung Galaxy S20 series device.

The BT 5.0 drove our reference Sony WH-1000xM4 in SBC, AAC and LDAC modes and provided good clear sound and plenty of volume. You don’t get buds with this device.

Sound quality – EXCEED

This is bright vocal (bass recessed, mids/treble boosted ) verging on warm and sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed). Its obviously designed for clear vocals but you can tweak the EQ to get a little more bass and a slightly less treble which is perfect for my jazz tastes.

While it is not overly loud at 75dB the sound quality and lost THD more than compensate. The top speaker (white line) and bottom speaker (gold line) are reasonable matches.

Deep Bass: 20-40HzHints building solidly to 70 Hz
Middle Bass: 40-100HzFlat
High Bass: 100 to 200HzBuilding
Low-mid: 200-400Hzflat
Mid: 400-1000Hzflat
High-mid: 1-2kHzflat
Low-treble: 2-4kHzFlat but peaking
Treble:4-6kHzflat
High Treble: 6-10kHzSlight dip to avoid harshness then flat
Dog whistle: 10-20kHzFlat to 15kHz then a gradual decline to 20khz

Build – EXCEED

Size/Weight159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4 mm x 190g
ColoursCloud Navy/Lavender/Mint/Red/White/Orange
BuildGlass – not specified but likely GG3
Frame – alloy
Back – painted ‘Glasstic’ acrylic glass
IPIP 68 1.5m for 30 minutes
In the box15W charger
USB-A to USB-C cable

While it sounds stingy not to have buds or a 25W charger its all about meeting the price point. The Glasstic back is probably more durable than glass if you drop it.

Android 10 – EXCEED

AndroidGoogle Android 10
Security patch date 1 Sept 2020
UIOne UI 2.5
GoogleAll standard apps, Google Lens and Assistant. Dedicated Google Assistant key.
BloatwareMostly productivity and utilities
Update PolicyThree OS updates, e.g. to V13
 Security patch Note that security updates handled by Google in Android 11
SecurityFingerprint – 9/10 test
FaceID – 7/10 test
DeXIt supports Samsung DeX video out or screen mirroring

Samsung One UI 2.5 is superior to Pure Android in so many ways. It is the difference between a vanilla functional OS and one that works so well. It gives immense customisation options for camera, screen, sound, gaming and more.

Part of that is DeX – the Samsung Desktop Experience where a USB-C to HDMI cable turns a monitor into a PC like a desktop computer. And unlike most Android devices it has screen output via cable or casting as well.

But the real bonus is three OS upgrades!

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G Camera – EXCEED

It is an S20 in name, but SD865 gives different camera results to the Exynos SoC we usually get.

It is hard to put a finger on that difference, but it is like the shots are less colourful. In fact, they are more colour accurate than the S20 Exynos SoC that produces a nice oversaturated shot that we all love.

They are clear, detailed, and it is hard to take a bad shot in any light condition.

 Camera Primary
12MP
Telephoto
8MP
Ultra-wide
13MP
(12MP output)
Selfie
32MP
Bins to 8MP (10MP output)
SensorSony IMX555HI847S5K3L6Sony IMX616
LensUnknown   
FocusDual Pixel PDAFPDAFFFFF
Aperture f-stop1.82.42.22.2
Pixel size um1.81.01.12.8 (1.6)
FOV° and cropped79 (67.8)76 (70.1)123 (104.3)70 (59.2)
StabilisationOIS
Gyro EIS video
OIS  
FlashSingle  No
ZoomDigital3X Optical and so-called 30X Space zoom  
Video Max[email protected]  [email protected]
FeaturesAuto HDR  HDR

Daylight, outdoors

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
1X – There is so much right with this shot. Perfect colours, detail, depth and more. It is what I wake up to every day.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
4X is very good with excellent detail
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
10X is pretty good too
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
Ultra-wide and Fixed Focus – its OK

Macro

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
Perfect macro (it was a windy day and the flower was moving hence the slight bokeh on teh nearest petals/

Indoors Office Light (400 lumen)

Dog looks great. Slight yellow cast was due to new warm white smartbulbs.

Low light (room with <100 lumen)

Superb low light – No AI
Night mode makes little difference – slightly brighter

Selfie

It may be 32MP binned to 8MP, but in fact, it ends up at 10MP uncropped or 6.5MP cropped.

It is average knowing how good the OPPO Find X2 Pro or the realme X3 SuperZoom can do with the same selfie sensor.

Single take photo

Single Take photography mode record a short 5-to-15-second video, panning around the subject. The phone selects the best still frames and video clips from the various sensors and edits them for you.

Bokeh

We did not test bokeh as it is disguised as ‘Live Focus’.

Video

It is [email protected] capable (primary lens) and [email protected] (ultra-wide). I would class the quality as good rather than spectacular that you expect from the S20 series. Again its to do with the finished result – less sharpness, details and colours.

Gyro EIS is excellent as can be expected from the SD854 SoC.

GadgetGuy’s take – Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Fan Edition) is a little confusing until you throw away those S20 series preconceptions.

My daily drive is the $1999 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, so I tend to measure everything by it, rather than by money!

Our rating system takes money into account and removes any bias. You can’t compare a $999 device to a $1999 device. Any more than you can compare an Apple iPhone to a comparable Android phone. Its Apples and oranges. The FE gives more value for less money.

So if I have been at all judgemental on what the S20 FE has or does not have – sorry. It is in a class of its own at $999 and blows lower speced SD756G phones out of the water.

It is the best value, most fully-featured 5G phone for $999 bar none.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G will send shockwaves to all the SD765G phones that will need to drop back to around $799 to maintain volume.

So if you have not experienced Samsung Galaxy S series before this is the one to get.

Rating explanation

A PASS mark is 4/5. We add points for EXCEED and vice versa for FAIL.

It absolutely deserves the 4.9/5 rating

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Fan Edition) - the best S20 for the price
Name: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Fan Editon) Price (RRP): $999 Manufacturer: Samsung
Value – superb for an SD865 deviceBuild quality – it's a SamsungStyle – colourful 'black slab'Battery life – two days if not moreCamera – well above averageDisplay – 120Hz and nice and brightAndroid – three OS updates
Underpowered 15W charger
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.9Overall Score