Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Galaxy S20+: What’s the difference?

(Pocket-lint) – Samsung announced the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, or Galaxy S20 FE in September 2020. It’s a lighter take on the Galaxy S20 family, offering many of the important specs, but making a few cuts so it’s a little more affordable.

It goes head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy S20+, which was our pick of the 2020 models, and now its successor, the S21+, announced in January 2021.

Let’s take a look at how these three phones compare.

Prices and availability

  • Galaxy S20 FE: £599 (4G), £699 (5G)
  • Galaxy S20+: £999 (5G)
  • Galaxy S21+: £949 (5G)

Price comparisons are a little tricky given that there are so many different versions of the Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S21+ globally. But the easy version is this: the Galaxy S20 FE is cheaper, no matter which you choose.

Even with discounts from the original launch price, the S20+ is still more expensive than the S20 FE, and with the S21+ being newer, it too is naturally more expensive than the S20 FE.

Not all regions get all models of the S20+, S21+ or all versions of the S20 FE, but whichever way you cut it, the FE costs less.

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Build and dimensions 

  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: 159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm, 190g
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+: 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8mm, 186g
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+: 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm, 202g

The biggest design difference is in the display, with the S20+ having curved display edges, while the S21+ and S20 FE are both flat displays. That makes the Galaxy S20+ look a little more premium from the front.

The sizes of the S20+, S21+ and the S20 FE are surprisingly close. There’s a few millimetres difference, with the FE being slightly shorter and slightly wider than both. The S20 FE is also a little thicker than the S20+ and S21+, not that you’d notice, and there are wider bezels on the S20 FE so the FE doesn’t look quite as premium as the S20+ or S21+.

The S20+, S21+ and S20 FE all offer IP68 waterproofing and stereo speakers supporting Dolby Atmos. The S20 FE and S20+ have a similar camera arrangement on the back of the phone too, while the S21+ sees a slightly different, with the frame extending to join the camera housing. It’s a more refreshing look and we’d say the Galaxy S21+ is the most unique in its looks.

One of the major differences to note is that the rear of the S20 FE is glasstic – plastic – rather than glass of the S20+. The S21+ is plastic too. While less premium, the plastic finish is more durable, cheaper and less likely to gather fingerprints so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Galaxy S20 FE comes in a range of colours – blue, red, lavender, mint, white, orange – while the Galaxy S20+ is all about the serious grey, black and light blue models. The S21+ meanwhile comes in black, silver, violet and pink.

In reality, there’s very little difference between the S20+ and S20 FE, and even less between the S21+ and S20 FE, aside from the design change on the rear, although the Galaxy S20+ is probably the device that looks and feels the most premium.

Display 

  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: 6.5-inch, 120Hz, AMOLED, Full HD+
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+: 6.7-inch, 120Hz, AMOLED, Quad HD+
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+: 6.7-inch, 48-120Hz, AMOLED, Full HD+

When it comes to the display, the S20+, S21+ and S20 FE use the same type of panel, AMOLED, and in all three cases there is a punch hole for the front camera. The S20 FE is a little smaller, but there’s not much in it.

There’s a difference in the resolution. The Samsung Galaxy S20+ offers 3200 x 1440 pixels (524ppi), while the Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S21+ offer 2400 x 1080 pixels (404ppi). Technically, the S20+ can render finer detail than the S20 FE and S21+ – but Samsung’s default on the S20+ is Full HD and many people never use the full resolution, so it’s arguably, no big loss.

There’s also quite a big difference in how the refresh rate is handled. The Galaxy S20+ offers 120Hz, but not at full resolution (not that that matters). The S20 FE also offers 120Hz, but the S21+ goes one further offering adaptive refresh rates between 48-120Hz. That means the S21+ can give you the best refresh rate for the content you’re looking at, saving battery when you don’t need faster rates. 

Leaving curved edges to one side, the decision is really about pixels – the older Galaxy S20+ has the highest resolution, but if you’re interested in the faster refresh rates, then the Galaxy S21+ has the best offering.

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Core hardware and battery

  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (5G), Exynos 990 (4G), 6GB/128GB, 4500mAh
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (4/5G), Exynos 990 (4/5G), 8/12/128GB, 4500mAh
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (5G), Exynos 2100 (5G), 8GB/128/256GB, 4800mAh

When it comes to the core hardware, the story really reveals itself. The headline is that the Galaxy S20 FE 5G version is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 globally. The 4G version is Exynos 990, but the 4G version isn’t available in all regions (like the US).

The Galaxy S20+ is much more complicated: there are 4 and 5G versions of both the Snapdragon 865 and the Exynos 990. In Europe, it’s the Exynos 990 version that has been available – so the S20 FE is a chance to get a Qualcomm-powered Samsung device, but make sure you buy the 5G version.

The Galaxy S21+ meanwhile, is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or the Exynos 2100, depending on the region. All models are 5G, with no 4G models. There’s little difference between these versions, however, as Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 appear to be close in performance.

With the S20 FE, there’s a reduction in RAM to 6GB with 128GB storage compared to the 8GB or 12GB options of the S20+ and the 8GB option of the S21+. In reality, the reduction in RAM is unlikely to have a big impact on how the phone runs.

MicroSD storage expansion is supported on both the S20+ and S20 FE devices, but not on the S21+.

The S20+ and S20 FE have the same battery capacity at 4500mAh, while the S21+ increases this to 4800mAh. The S20 FE has slightly greater endurance thanks to the slightly lower spec display, which the S21+ is also likely to benefit from, but there isn’t much difference between the S20+ and S20 FE based on our experience. 

Cameras

  • Galaxy S20 FE:
    • Main: 12MP, f/1.8, 1.8µm, OIS
    • Tele: 8MP, f/2.4, 1.0µm, OIS, 3x optical
    • Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm
    • Front: 32MP, f/2.2, 0.8µm, FF
  • Galaxy S20+:
    • Main: 12MP, f/1.8, 1.8µm, OIS  
    • Tele: 64MP, f/2.0, 0.8µm, OIS, 3x hybrid optic
    • Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2, 1.4µm
    • DepthVision
    • Front: 10MP, f/2.2, 1.22µm, AF
  • Galaxy S21+:
    • Main: 12MP, f/1.8, 1.8µm, OIS  
    • Tele: 64MP, f/2.0, 0.8µm, OIS, 3x hybrid optic
    • Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2, 1.4µm
    • Front: 10MP, f/2.2, 1.22µm, AF

There’s a lot in common between the Samsung Galaxy S20+, S21+ and the Galaxy S20 FE cameras. Broadly they have the same selection, based around the same main camera. That’s a 12-megapixel camera with large pixels.

It’s joined by ultra-wide and telephoto cameras, but here the specs are different. The ultra-wide is also a different sensor and with a switch to a smaller sensor in the S20 FE, it’s not quite as good as the performance of the S20+ and S21+.

With the telephoto, the big switch is from a 64-megapixel sensor on the S20+ and S21+ to an 8-megapixel sensor on the S20 FE. It’s a totally different approach from the hardware, with the S20 FE offering 3x optical zoom, whereas the S20+ and S21+ offering hybrid optic zoom. This is actually a cropped version from the 64-megapixel sensor in these cameras. All the camersa offer digital zoom all the way up to 30x.

The 64-megapixel camera on the S20+ and S21+ also handles 8K video capture, while there’s no 8K capture on the S20 FE. The Galaxy S21+ boosts performance on video, offering 4K 60fps on all cameras (front and back), which the other devices can’t match.

The S20+ has a decent 10-megapixel camera selfie, which the S21+ also offers. Samsung moved to a 32-megapixel front camera for the S20 FE. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to this move that we can see and it’s fixed focus rather than autofocus, so it’s a little weaker in performance. Finally, the S20+ also has a DepthVision sensor, the only model to offer it, but it doesn’t seem to do that much.

Overall, there’s little between the performance of these models. Generally speaking, the performance from the main camera and ultra-wide is similar, while the zoom offers the same functionality too. The Galaxy S21+ is the most recent model with a few additional offerings, including boosted video capture options, so for us, it’s the best camera option.

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Conclusion 

Given that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the cheaper phone, it has a lot going for it. So what do you actually miss out on? There are some small camera changes, although the experience is going to be broadly the same as the S20+ and S21+.

There are some minor spec changes like less RAM, although that probably won’t have a huge impact in daily use, compared to the option for those in Europe to get a Qualcomm device instead of Exynos, which is likely to be popular and an advantage over the Galaxy S20+.

There are differences in the display, with the Galaxy S20+ being the only model with curves towards the edges and the only model to offer that higher resolution. The S20 FE has similar display characteristics to the S21+, although the latter is slightly better in terms of the refresh rate. If refresh rate is the most important thing, then the S21+ is likely the best option for you.

Finally, there’s the plastic or glass back. Sure, you won’t have the most premium finish if you pick plastic, but at the same time, you’ll have more cash in your pocket. The Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S21+ are both more expensive, with the only real advantage from the S20+ being a couple of premium features; while the Galaxy S21+ is slightly more powerful, the question is whether that’s a worthy return for the additional price over the S20 FE.

Considering all this, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE still looks attractive, being the most affordable of all these devices, with only a few minor downsides compared to those other Galaxy S models.

Writing by Chris Hall. Editing by Britta O’Boyle.





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