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Samsung Galaxy S20 review

The Samsung Galaxy S20 comes equipped with 5G and some excellent features, but all this tech will cost you.

Samsung Galaxy S20 review
(Image: © Samsung)

Our Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S20 isn't the most powerful of Samsung's S20 lineup but it's still a fantastic phone for the majority of users. It offers great new features like 5G and superior cameras, while still looking stylish and attractive. It's an ideal phone for those keen to embrace 5G and that don't mind the large price tag.

For

  • Great display
  • Excellent camera
  • 5G capabilities

Against

  • Expensive
  • Patchy fingerprint scanner
  • No headphone jack

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is the newest phone in the Galaxy range. Samsung has been riding high on our best smartphones rankings for years now, but we've seen stiff competition from other big names like Apple along with relative underdogs like OnePlus. So, can the Samsung Galaxy S20 hold onto its throne?

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is the entry-level model in the S20 range. It doesn't offer as large a screen as the Galaxy S20 Plus nor does it offer the ridiculous amount of power that the Galaxy S20 Ultra provides, but that means it's a little cheaper and a little comfier in your hands. It's ultimately a far more practical phone for the majority of users. That's not to say it's cheap (which can be an issue) but, for a premium phone, you get a lot of functionality without feeling like you're carrying around a pseudo tablet.

Following on from the Samsung Galaxy S10 series, the Samsung Galaxy S20 is everything you could want backed up with 5G capability. It's a phone that will last you a long time with a fantastic 6.2-inch screen, fast 120Hz refresh rate, and powerful cameras. 

That's reassuring given you should expect to pay around $1,000 for the privilege if you decide to buy it SIM-free rather than from one of the best cell phone providers. That price means that the Samsung Galaxy S20 is $300 more expensive than the iPhone 11 and while it arguably has a better camera than Apple's flagship (along with 5G), it might be difficult for some people to justify that extra cost. 

So, while the Samsung Galaxy S20 is far from an impulse purchase, we think it's worth the asking price. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 review: Design and styling

  • Available in cloud blue, cosmic gray, and cloud pink
  • Sleek design

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is available in three colors: cloud blue, cosmic gray, and cloud pink. None of them are particularly garish looking so it's all down to your taste and general style as to what works for you. They all look suitably classy in the end. Other international markets also offer cloud white and aura red as color schemes but don't expect to be able to find these easily within the US. 

Whichever color you choose, the Samsung Galaxy S20 looks good. Its front is mostly just a large screen while the back is glass with plenty of curves to make sure it molds into your hand just so. It's just about small enough to use with one hand but that's not at the expense of the screen size. At 6.2 inches long, you'll easily be able to see what's going on whether you're browsing a website or watching a Netflix episode on the move. 

Buttons are located to the side as usual but there's a caveat here. Unlike many other handsets, you'll need to hold down two buttons to access the Power Menu or remap the button manually. You can always ask Samsung's voice assistant, Bixby, to power down your phone too. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphone

(Image credit: Samsung)

As expected for a phone of this level, there's wireless charging as well as charging via USB-C. More on how well that performs later. The phone also has an embedded fingerprint scanner which provides mixed results at times but is clearly a fair bit more reliable and faster than the previous Galaxy S10. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 review: Battery

Tech specs

Average price: $1000
Operating System: Android
Screen size: 6.2-inch quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED
Storage: 128GB (support for 1TB microSD card)
5G ready: Yes
Headphone jack: No
Charging type: USB-C with fast charging
Also consider: OnePlus 8

  • Lasts a day
  • Fast charging capabilities

The Samsung Galaxy S20 has a much bigger battery than its predecessor, thanks to 4,000mAh capacity compared to the 3,400mAh on the S10. That means despite all the extra features and power, the Samsung Galaxy S20 lasts a full day of typical use without much worry. Your mileage will vary depending on the settings you choose but it's fairly consistent. There are battery-saving options in the Settings menu, as with previous generations of Galaxy.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 also has a fast-charging feature so you can get from empty to 100% in under an hour with the right equipment. There's also 15W wireless charging which is reasonably speedy, if not quite up to par with wired methods. Also, like with the Samsung Galaxy S10, you can use your S20 to charge other gadgets that support Qi charging such as a pair of Galaxy Buds Plus wireless earbuds or another phone. 

Samsung Galaxy S20: Screen and audio

  • 6.2-inch display
  • 120Hz refresh rate

The Samsung Galaxy S20 has a 6.2-inch display which is only 0.1 inches larger than the S10. The maximum resolution remains the same but the Samsung Galaxy S20 looks far sharper and higher quality than anything else you'll have seen before. That's helped by the 120Hz refresh rate (although this requires switching on manually), which provides smoother scrolling and animations. In particular, gaming should look far better with this display. You will have to choose between this or a higher resolution, however.

Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphone

(Image credit: Samsung)

When gaming or watching a streaming movie, you'll also enjoy HDR10+ which is sure to provide more detailed images in most content you watch. 

Audio-wise, the Samsung Galaxy S20 doesn't actually bring anything exceptional to the table. Its audio quality is pretty good but there's nothing too grandiose going on here. Also, bear in mind that the Samsung Galaxy S20 doesn't have a headphone jack. You'll need to use USB-C compatible headphones or wireless earbuds to listen while on the move. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 review: Camera

  • New 64MP telephoto camera
  • Extensive features

The ultimate Samsung-based camera lies with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra but that doesn't mean the Samsung Galaxy S20 is a slouch. Stats wise, it's actually on a par with the Samsung Galaxy S10, with the main camera remaining 12MP and actually having a theoretically lower aperture than the S10. So, why is it still fantastic? Samsung has increased the size of individual pixels here which is complicated sounding stuff but essentially means more detail and more light in any photo you take with the Samsung Galaxy S20. 

It also has a new 64MP telephoto camera which allows for 3x lossless zoom along with 30x digital zoom. Throw in a minor improvement to the 12MP ultra-wide camera compared to its predecessor and the Samsung Galaxy S20 produces some terrific images. This is a phone that's much smarter about photography than most of its competitors. If you're a fan of video recording, you'll appreciate the option to record in 8K too. 

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S20?

5G is the big selling point for the Samsung Galaxy S20. It's easily a great upgrade to the Galaxy S10 with superior performance and a better camera but, ultimately, it's whether you want 5G capabilities or not that will decide if this is the smartphone for you. It might not be an essential feature for everyone right now (depending on if you live in a 5G capable area) but future-proofing is important and by purchasing this, you've already got one of the best phones out there right now.

In particular, the Samsung Galaxy S20 is a good bet if you want a great camera but you don't have the budget for the Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, if you already own a Samsung Galaxy S10, the upgrade is a little more incremental and potentially not worth it unless you're desperate for the best. Still keen? You'll be very happy with this phone for a while to come.