Father Time Makes No Round Trips And That’s Its Biggest Challenge


Make no mistake about it. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, in its newest avatar, is a response to the new OnePlus 9 at least till the Galaxy S21 FE comes along. Samsung, in that regard, has perhaps finally decided that this is indeed a good time to refresh the Galaxy S20 FE line in India, by adding the variants that are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip and will be sold alongside the variants powered by the Exynos 990 chip. That also means the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has 5G, while the earlier variants were 4G-only. Mind you, this was first released late last year, and that means it took its own sweet time to get to our shores. But how much does the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE with the Qualcomm processor cost? There is one variant on sale in India at this time—that’s the one with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage and that’s priced at Rs 47,999. In a way, this undercuts the OnePlus 9 which is priced at Rs 49,999 for the 8GB + 128GB variant, but do remember, that’s powered by the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip. Yet, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has one big challenge—the passing of time. Possible buyers would know that the Galaxy S21 series has succeeded the Galaxy S20 series and might have been expecting a Galaxy S21 FE perhaps, particularly the ones who crave to buy the absolute latest when it comes to smartphone purchases. Things have changed since the Galaxy S20 first arrived.

You can buy the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE in three colour options at this time. Your pick is between Cloud Navy, Cloud Mint and Cloud Lavender, the latter is the one pictured here. There is no Cloud White or Cloud Red for the Qualcomm Snapdragon variant of the Galaxy S20 FE just yet, and maybe that’s the finer differentiation between the two lines. At the back continues to be the glass-like plastic finish. ‘Glastic’, if that’s what you’d like to call it. This feels good to hold, good to look at and you really don’t feel this as a step down in any way. Yet, there will always be the debate between the premium-ness of glass and metal compared with a plastic finish. The OnePlus 9 has the former, and in the minds of many potential customers, that’s an advantage. All said and done, this looks like a premium Samsung phone. And in my mind, also feels premium—as someone who doesn’t feel a plastic and polycarbonate finish is inferior to a glass back. In fact, I’m definitely happier that this finish holds off better and doesn’t show smudges and fingerprints as much. In terms of the dimensions and the weight, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is exactly the same as the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE running the Exynos 990 chip.

But why the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, you may ask? To be fair, the Exynos 990 chip is no slouch, and continues to be sold alongside this new line of variants. The thing is, Samsung needed to tick off the 5G option too, for those who would like to have a 5G-ready phone. More in hope than anticipation perhaps, but so be it. The Exynos 990 variant is 4G only. In terms of performance, both phones deliver top notch performance. Be it apps, be it for gaming and be it for multitasking. With 8GB RAM, you have more than enough headroom for apps to spread their wings. I did notice that while the Exynos 990 variant just exhibits a very slight heating up on the middle of the back panel when using the camera or using Google Maps for navigation, the Snapdragon 865 variant of the Galaxy S20 FE just stays that much cooler in comparison. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE also gets a large 4,500mAh battery. This, for me, actually almost lasted two days on a single charge when used moderately. Dial up the app usage, multi-tasking and even some video streaming, and yet this will easily last you a day without any need for battery anxiety.

On the software side of things, it’s the familiar Samsung One UI that we see on all other Samsung Galaxy S21 series phones, before that on the Samsung Galaxy S20 series and so on. The thing is, and there is no doubt, One UI just works. Be it in terms of the visual appeal, the extensive feature set that doesn’t overwhelm you and the slick add-ons such as the DeX interface. For me, One UI has also become incredibly familiar. Yet, the sameness of it all just feels a little out of place—some tweaks, perhaps even some vibrant accent colours, may have allowed the FE aspect to stand out a bit more. It is easy to understand why Samsung doesn’t want to change what is working well, but just that added flavour will perhaps be appreciated by customers who want to stand out from the routine.

The 6.5-inch OLED display is Infinity-O, which means this spec is at par with what you’d expect for the most part. That is what Samsung have done with the display that is Full HD+, which means a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080 pixels. This is what rivals such as the OnePlus 9 also and to be honest, offers the ideal balance between visual brilliance and battery consumption. Not to forget, this display ticks off the 120Hz refresh rate spec as well, which is right in tune with the times. Everything just looks better at 120Hz. This screen is also HDR ready, which adds value too in the longer run. By default, you may find that the colours on this screen are a tad too rich, but head to the display settings and you can easily tone this down as per your liking—Natural mode perhaps seems the best fit. This is a large enough and a vibrant enough screen for you to not feel later that you’ve spent money on a phone that can be categorized as a ‘flagship Lite’ or something similarly unfair.

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It is a bit more complicated with the cameras though. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE instead makes do with 12-megapixel ultrawide camera + 12-megapixel wide camera + 8-megapixel telephoto camera. Even before we may look at the actual evidence of the photography performance, to be honest, these numbers just don’t look enough. There’s the OnePlus 9 staring this down with a 48-megapixel wide camera, a 50-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 20-megapixel depth sensor. Plus, that also has the Hasselblad expertise working in the background, most certainly an advantage. Yet, I must say the camera holds its own, more easily than you’d perhaps imagine. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE’s photography results, indoors and outdoors in good light and low light, are really impressive. Photos are bright but that doesn’t mean the dynamic range is compromised, there is a nice vibrancy to images that a lot of people prefer when they share photos on social media and when you zoom in, you’d see a lot of detailing too. The software side of things is doing more than its share to help the camera hardware along, without any overtly aggressive colour boost. Even with the Night Mode switched off, the large pixels capture enough light to allow excellent details to show up. That means the results will show much better highlights, a tad more crispness and areas around a possible light source in the photo will retain the detailing that may otherwise have been lost. I really like how the software has dialed down the noise reduction to eliminate grain—something that helps retain details elsewhere in the frame. That being said, the 30x zoom feature looks great on paper, but you’d be very lucky to get usable photos at that range. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE returns good zoom results till 10x of which 3x is optical zoom, and you can even get up to 20x if you have really stable hands. Any zoom level beyond that requires the phone to be mounted and absolutely static to be able to at least eliminate some noise. Mind you, the Galaxy S20 FE still cannot handle 8K video recording, which while it may not be a problem for many, is just one less tick on future readiness.

The Last Word: Old Wine, New Bottle, Undeniably Fresher

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is a fresher take on what is undeniably last year’s phone. It still carries the Galaxy S20 naming, which may not be ideal if you crave to buy a phone that is absolutely latest, in the name and the game. But it feels freshened up enough to give it a further boost. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip gives it the 5G upgrade that was much needed, if only to tick off the futureproofing aspect. But as time has passed, a few other elements now look a tad dated when compared with the rivals. That is specifically the camera—the rivals such as the OnePlus 9 have taken the game ahead overall, and the fact that they have more megapixel counts to show on the spec sheet, is half the perception battle won on the shop floor. Also, we cannot ignore the possible incoming competition from the likes of the OnePlus 9R and the Xiaomi Mi 11 series, in the coming weeks. Yet, all things considered and as a package, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is bringing everything together quite well. It may not be winning any number wars on the spec sheet, but then it doesn’t need to either, because the experience is what matters most. And that’s where the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is delivering with aplomb.

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