Samsung revealed the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition at its brief Unpacked event today and before you dismiss it as just another Galaxy S20, this smartphone delivers a 120Hz display along with support for 5G for less than $700. Now do I have your attention?
In a year in which we saw prices on smartphones push even higher (something Samsung contributed to with the likes of the $1,299 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the $1,999 Galaxy Z Fold 2), the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition with flagship smartphone specs starting at $699 feels like a breath of fresh air.
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While there are naturally a couple of trade-offs to bring the price down, Samsung hits a lot of the highlights with the Galaxy S20 FE, like its 120Hz display, 5G support, Snapdragon 865 processor, IP68 water resistance and a solid triple camera setup. I suspect most of the price-cutting measures will go completely unnoticed by most users and, for $300 less than the standard Galaxy S20, that makes it a very interesting proposition.
Price and availability
It will be available in stores starting on October 2.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition display
Bringing 120Hz down to this price point is a big deal. We could see something similar from the OnePlus 8T soon, but with Apple rumored to have missed out on 120Hz for the iPhone 12, this is likely to be a major marketing point for Samsung this holiday season. Having just spent a couple of weeks with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, that high refresh rate makes everything look and feel more responsive.
At 6.5 inches, the panel slots into the lineup between the standard S20 and the S20 Plus and still features the awesome Super AMOLED Infinity-O display with HDR10+ support. The one sacrifice you make versus the pricier Galaxy S20 options is that the display is only FHD+ (1,080 x 2,400 pixels) rather than QHD (1,440 x 3,200). At the same time, this should deliver better battery life and is the highest resolution supported for 120Hz so it feels like a reasonable exchange for most users.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition design
While there are some changes, the overall design adheres pretty closely to the rest of the Galaxy S20 lineup. Some of the notable changes are swapping from a glass back to plastic, something that will actually help with durability. Also, the display uses Gorilla Glass 5 rather than 6. Another change is the color options, which are plentiful. Carrier availability varies, but the full spectrum includes Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Red, Cloud White and Cloud Orange.
The Infinity-O display is still virtually bezel-less on the front of the device with an in-screen fingerprint reader for your biometric login. The protruding triple camera array on the back of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition looks virtually identical to those on the Galaxy S20, although (as we'll cover next) the sensors are slightly different.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition cameras
The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition still features three cameras on the rear of the device with an ultrawide, wide and telephoto lens. What's missing is a 64MP or 108MP sensor size; instead, the ultra-wide and wide-angle are both 12MP, while the telephoto drops to 8MP.
This does mean you don't get some of the crazy zoom and post-processing capabilities of the other Galaxy devices, but it is nonetheless a versatile collection of lenses that offers a 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital. And critically, it keeps optical image stabilization (OIS) which will give you better handheld results for lower light photos as well as more stable video.
While the massive megapixel counts make for a good marketing pitch, they don't always translate to superior photos so we'll be very curious to see how the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition photos hold up in real-world usage.
Galaxy S20 Fan Edition performance
Much like the outside of the device, the inside of the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is quite similar to the earlier Galaxy S20 devices. It features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor along with support for 5G, although it's worth noting that only Verizon is getting the model with mmWave 5G while the rest are sub-6Ghz only.
RAM takes a slight hit coming down to 6GB from the 8GB found in the standard Galaxy S20. This is about the minimum that we consider to be acceptable on an Android device, so we will be taking a careful look at how this affects performance in day-to-day usage.
Storage is limited to 128GB, but this should be enough for most users and thankfully, it also includes a microSD slot that will allow you to add up to another 1TB if you need it.
Galaxy S20 Fan Edition battery and charging
Samsung didn't skimp here with a 4,500 mAh battery that matches the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and, with the FHD+ display you should see significant battery life with this phone (especially if you opt to forgo the 120Hz mode). Charging options include fast wireless charging 2.0 and fast wired charging along with PowerShare if you need to top up your Galaxy Buds Live or Galaxy Watch 3 on the go.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition is arriving at just the right moment to serve as a potential spoiler for some of the last major smartphone launches of 2020. The iPhone 12 and the Pixel 5 are due to arrive over the next couple of weeks and while they will certainly arrive with more fanfare than the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, this smartphone has the potential to grab a healthy share of those buyers.
The Pixel 5 is likely to be at a serious specs deficit by comparison and the iPhone 12 will have some specs that top the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, but the display is going to fall short and only the iPhone 12 Mini can compete with it on price.
All of this to say that this looks like an excellent smartphone that should warrant attention from those looking to upgrade their smartphone without breaking the bank this fall.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.