Review, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S20 Quick Review: More Than Just an Alternative

In the Samsung Galaxy S20 series, attention is mainly focused on the range-topping Galaxy S20 Ultra. After all, it’s the most well-equipped model of the series, but I’d argue the Galaxy S20 is the more attractive option. It’s more ergonomic, it’s more affordable, and most importantly, it’s more than just an alternative.

I’ve spent a good few weeks using the Galaxy S20 as my daily driver, and it really made me realise just how much I miss using a compact smartphone. The S20 as a whole is also a good all-rounder, though it does have its fair share of shortcomings.

What It Is

Display6.2-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3200 x 1440), 120Hz
ChipsetSamsung Exynos 990 2.73GHz octa-core
GPUMali-G77 MP11
RAM8GB
Storage128GB, expandable
Camera (rear)12MP f/1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS
64MP f/2.0 (telephoto), PDAF, OIS, Hybrid Optic Zoom (3x)
12MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide angle)
Camera (front)10MP f/2.2, Dual Pixel AF
Battery
4,000mAh
Dimensions151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm
Weight
163g
OSOne UI 2.1 based on Android 10
ConnectivityLTE
NFC
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz)
USB Type-C
PriceRM3,599

On paper, the Galaxy S20 is a high-end smartphone through and through. It has the same Exynos 990 chipset as its more costly siblings, similar design language – complete with an IP68 rating – and a pretty generous 4,000mAh cell that can return respectable battery life. Sure, the triple camera system isn’t quite as sophisticated, but it can still capture good-looking shots; more on that in the next section.

The Good Stuff

The biggest selling point of the Galaxy S20 has to be its compact form factor, just like how it was with the Galaxy S10e. In fact, compared to the latter, the S20 is actually ever so slightly narrower by 0.8mm. This makes it possible to operate the phone with only one hand, which is not something you can say with the majority of smartphones in the market now.

That being said, the 6.2-inch QHD+ screen of the S20 has a tall 20:9 aspect ratio, so it’s pretty difficult to reach for the top of the display.

Nonetheless, the Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen of the Galaxy S20 is by far one of the best – if not the best – displays I’ve seen on a smartphone. It’s similar to the S20 Ultra’s panel quality, which is to say it has very punchy colours, true blacks, great viewing angles, and wide colour gamut. Suffice to say it’s a fantastic screen that not many smartphones can match.

Of course, the 120Hz refresh rate of the Galaxy S20’s AMOLED panel further improves the overall user experience of the phone. Thanks to the high refresh rate, every single motion shown on the screen looks extra smooth. Yes, the resolution of the screen can only be set to 1080p at 120Hz, but this is a non-issue for me: I personally can’t see the difference between 1080p and the screen’s native 1440p resolution.

Performance wise, the Galaxy S20 does not disappoint either. Gaming on it is very enjoyable with high, stable frame rates, and multitasking on the phone feels seamless. The Exynos 990 may not be as popular as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, but there’s no denying the fact that it is a fast chipset.

It’s also worth noting that the Exynos 990 is fabricated on a 7nm process, making it quite a power-efficient chip. This, in turn, improves the battery life of the Galaxy S20. Throughout the review period, its 4,000mAh cell can return four to five hours of screen on time with the screen’s refresh rate set to 120Hz. Switching to 60Hz got me another extra hour, which is respectable.

Last but definitely not least is the Galaxy S20’s camera performance. For the most part, the triple camera system is fun to shoot with. The autofocus, for one, is fast and accurate, and it’s quite effortless to capture sharp, flattering shots with the camera.

And unlike the Galaxy S10e – which I consider to be the S20’s closest predecessor – the Galaxy S20 has all the focal lengths you need. It sports a 12MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, and a 64MP telephoto lens. While the telephoto camera isn’t quite as far-reaching as the S20 Ultra’s periscope sensor, some folks may not find that level of zoom necessary.

The Bad Stuff

As good as the Galaxy S20 is, there are a few aspects of the phone that could be improved upon. The screen, for one, doesn’t have good palm rejection. This is especially evident when operating the phone with one hand: just slightly touching the edge of the screen with my palm is enough for it to register as a touch input.

Thankfully, putting on a casing stops this from happening. It’s not an ideal solution, but at least it mitigates the issue.

Aside from that, the Galaxy S20’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the screen isn’t fantastic either. It works great at times, but there are more than a few instances where it would take a few tries before the sensor can properly recognise my fingerprint. Basically, it has trouble accurately reading my fingerprint consistently.

And then there’s the camera performance of the Galaxy S20. Don’t get me wrong, it is a competent shooter, but it doesn’t impress in certain areas. The camera interface, for one, can feel sluggish at times. This is most noticeable in low light conditions, which mars the user experience.

There’s also the discrepancy in image quality between the three sensors. Obviously, the 12MP main sensor can take flattering shots easily, but it’s not quite as effortless with the ultra-wide angle and telephoto shooters. They can perform in good lighting, but in more challenging lighting situations, these two sensors struggle to deliver. Just look at the sample shots above.

But most of all, the Galaxy S20 is an expensive smartphone. Retailing at RM3,599, it is markedly more expensive than the Galaxy S10’s RM2,699 starting price. Of course, it’s been a while since the phone was launched here, so you can get it as low as RM3,049 now. Still, that’s a steep price tag, especially for only 128GB of internal storage.

Is It Worth It?

If you want a compact, but still very capable flagship smartphone, then the Samsung Galaxy S20 is absolutely worth it. After all, it is one of very few options in the market now in this pocketable form factor. Although it has some shortcomings here and there, its strengths – the compact body and screen quality, to name a couple – more than make up for it.

The Galaxy S20 is not an affordable smartphone, but that’s the price you have to pay for a flagship device of this calibre. Personally, I’d be more than happy to pay this amount of money for the S20 – I absolutely love how well it fits in my hands.