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Samsung Galaxy S20/S20+ hands-on review: it's what's on the inside that counts

Samsung Galaxy S20/S20+ hands-on review: it's what's on the inside that counts

It's that time of year again, Samsung has refreshed its S-series smartphone and for 2020 is jumping from the S10 to the S20 line. In another new branding strategy, there's no S20e this year to replace last year's S10e. Samsung has followed Apple and made the regular S20 the cheapest in the line, with the S20+ and S20 Ultra above it. We have already been hands-on with the new S20 smartphones. Here are our first impressions.

Samsung Galaxy S20 release date and price

So there's no S20ee this year but that Samsung is sticking with its three-tiers for it's latest flagship lineup. The regular S20, which comes in either an 8/128GB or a 12/128 GB version, starts at €899 in Europe, whilst for 12 GB of RAM (5G version), you'll have to cough up €999. In the US, only the 5G variant is available and starts at $999.

The S20+, on the other hand, comes with either 8 or 12 GB of RAM, but in addition to the 128 GB of internal storage variant, up to 512 GB of in-built storage can be had in 'the plus'. The 8/128 GB (4G) version costs €999, whilst the 12/128 GB version (5G) will set you back €1,099, or $1,199 in the US. A further 12/1512 GB version (5G), will cost €1,249 / $1,349. Why there is no 256 GB version, as there is with the S20 Ultra, is a mystery.

The official colors are called Cosmic Grey, Cosmic Black, Cloud Blue or Cloud Pink.

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This Samsung Galaxy S20 color variant is called Cloud Blue. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy S20 design and build quality

Samsung may be taking risks by launching into the foldable smartphone market with first the shaky launch of the Galaxy Fold and now the upcoming Galaxy Z Flip, but the new Galaxy S20 phones represent a much more conservative approach. Gone are the flashy color sweeps and the reflective Note series, and in come some rather plain and, quite frankly, dull finishes. Having said that, look closer at the S20 and S20+ and you'll see there's nothing conservative about the camera setup. It's clear where Samsung is placing its chips in this game of smartphone roulette.

The new S20 and S20+ are also packed with impressive hardware under their bland exteriors. The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor returns under the display (more on that later) and all devices in the range are IP68 certified to protect against water and dust damage.

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The new Samsung Galaxy S20 features the Infinity-O display this year. / © AndroidPIT

All three models, interestingly, will come in both 4G and 5G versions. Samsung is future-proofing its flagship series but, as any company that wants to sell a lot of smartphones will know, it's going to be a while before 5G becomes a thing for a lot of people around the world. Giving consumers the option is a smart move, and we're going to see a lot of this in 2020.

Samsung Galaxy S20 display

It will come as no surprise to those familiar with the smartphone market that Samsung has once again delivered a set of smartphones with breathtaking displays. For the regular S20, the smallest device in the range, the display is a 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED with HDR10+ support. It's hole-punched at the top, which Samsung is continuing to call its Infinity-O display.

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Both 60 Hz and 120 Hz are available on the Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20+. / © AndroidPIT

The S20+ features a 6.7-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED, also with HDR+, and apart from the size, there is little between the two displays. You do, however, get a slightly higher pixels-per-inch value on the S20 (563 ppi) compared to the S20+ (525 ppi) due to the extra inches on the larger model. It's Gorilla Glass 6 that is covering these Samsung displays.

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The Samsung Galaxy S20+, launching with Android 10. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy S20 camera

Samsung has gone big on the camera sector this year and even though the S20 and S20+ lack some of the extra flair you get with the S20 Ultra, the mommy bear and baby bear S20s are still housing a lot of glass on the back.

On both the S20 and S20+, you'll get a triple camera setup consisting of a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle and a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, as well as a 64-megapixel telephoto camera, to complete the trio. Go for the S20+ version, however, and you'll get an additional time-of-flight sensor that Samsung is calling DepthVision. This brings your total rear camera to four on the S20+. You can see the full arrangements below:

Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20+ camera hardware:

Rear:

  • Ultra-wide: 12MP, 1.4-micron pixel pitch, F2.2
  • Wide-angle: 12MP, 1.8-micron pixel pitch, F1.8 OIS
  • Telephoto: 64MP, 0.8-micron pixel pitch, F2.0 OIS
  • DepthVision (ToF) (Samsung Galaxy S20+ only)

Front:

  • Selfie camera: 10MP, 1.22-micron pixel pitch, F2.2

As impressive as the camera hardware is, to take quality images with your smartphone you need first-class software. Samsung has added new photo features to the S20 line for 2020, the standout being a new AI-supported and continuously variable hybrid zoom system. This gives you up to 3x hybrid optical and up to 30x super-resolution zoom. Samsung is packaging this up and calling it its Space Zoom.

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There is some impressive zoom technology in the new S20 and S20+. / © AndroidPIT

During our brief hands-on with the S20 and S20+, Space Zoom seemed to be working rather well. Lining up shots in the viewfinder at even 10x zoom can be tricky, but with the new S20 line small hand movements were quickly corrected by the AI software, and the results were good.

We'll have to test this complex camera system properly when we can spend some serious time with the devices and really get deep into what the hardware and software combination is capable of.

Samsung Galaxy S20 battery

In terms of battery, the S20 comes with a 4,000mAh cell and the S20+ houses a 4,500mAh. Both support fast charging at up to 45W, and Samsung has put the appropriate fast-charger in the box. Naturally, we couldn't test the battery in hands-on conditions but we will, of course, test the full battery capabilities when we do our full review. It will be interesting, in particular, if the smaller S20 can manage acceptable battery life, given that this is an area where the Note 10 suffered compared to the Note 10+.

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Slim, but with a big battery. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy S20 technical specifications

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

  Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
Display

6.2-inch, AMOLED
120 Hz

6.7-inch, AMOLED
120 Hz
Dimensions 151.1 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm
Weight

163 grams

220 grams
OS Android 10 Android 10
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865/Exynos 990 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865/Exynos 990
Memory

8/12 GB RAM
128 GB 

8/12 GB RAM
128/512 GB
Battery 4,000 mAh 4,500 mAh
Camera

Rear: 12 MP, f/1.4, ultra-wide
12 MP, f/1.8, wide-angle, OIS
64 MP, f/2.0, telephoto, OIS
Front: 10 MP, f/2.2

Rear: 12 MP, f/1.4, ultra-wide
12 MP, f/1.8, wide-angle, OIS
64 MP, f/2.0, telephoto, OIS
DepthVision (ToF)
Front: 10 MP, f/2.2
Special Features Space Zoom
Wireless PowerShare
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
IP68
Space Zoom
Wireless PowerShare
Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
IP68
Price starting at €899 starting at €999

Early Verdict

Sales for all three S20 models will start on 13 March in Europe, and we’ll back with a full review of the S20 and S20+ just as soon as we've had time to test them properly over a longer period of time. It will interesting to see how useful that crazy Space Zoom is in everyday life, and how the 4,000mAh battery can handle that powerful SoC and energy-hungry display technology. Stay tuned for that.

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