Review: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 4G – Worth It?

Two months ago, I finally caved and bought a new phone. My old Samsung Galaxy A8 Star, which I bought in 2018, is still perfectly functional (albeit with reduced camera quality) – but since my mom was looking for a better phone and she didn’t want to buy a brand new one (she’s using a RM300+ XiaoMi that’s super laggy), I gave her my old phone.

I use my phone mainly to browse the internet, take photos and videos, and play simple games (nothing taxing like Genshin Impact or Ragnarok) – so right off the bat, I knew I wanted something with an above-average camera, but at a price that wouldn’t break the bank. My initial budget was around RM1,500; but most of the phones in this price range either didn’t offer the specs I wanted, or they were from brands that I have not tried before, like Oppo and OnePlus. I have been a Samsung user for the longest time – I used a Sony XPeria Z once, but it was a bad experience for me, so I was hesitant to try other brands. Unfortunately, none of the Samsung releases with the specs that I wanted were within my budget either. 😦

After a lot of deliberation, I upped my budget to get a semi-flagship phone: the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition). It’s basically a toned down version of their flagship, marketed at an upper-middle price range. There are two versions available, namely the 4G and 5G variants, and there is a pretty substantial difference in price. I ended up getting the 4G, because 5G rollout is still slow in Malaysia (I can’t even get coverage in my own house, despite living in a highly urbanised area – thanks, Digi!).

Getting the phone was a challenge in itself. None of the outlets I went to had ready stock of the 4G version, and after trying several, I had to order online instead. It came fairly fast though, and setup was easy. At the time, the only available variant was the one running on the Exynos 990 LTE chip (which is what they use for phones in Europe), but Samsung Malaysia currently offers the Snapdragon 865 version too.

The phone cost me RM2,299 – the most I’ve ever spent on a phone. And guess what?

The phone is currently going for RM1,899.

Face. Palm.

Anyway, I’m not big on gadgets, and I’m not a professional reviewer – but I thought I’d share my experience with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 4G so far. There are pros and cons, so it’s really a matter of what you think would best fit your needs, and whether some of the issues would affect your usage.

USABILITY

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My phone, in Cloud Orange

As mentioned, the series comes with two different types of chips; the Exynos 990 and the Snapdragon 865, with 6GB and 8GB RAM respectively. My G version is able to run most apps smoothly. However, I don’t think the Exynos is a good chip. The phone tends to overheat, especially in outdoor conditions (I was filming something once for five minutes and my camera shut down on its own because it was getting too hot), and sometimes, even when I’m just playing music in the (air-conditioned) car, it feels very warm to the touch. This is apparently a major issue with the Exynos, even for their latest flagship S21. Given how expensive these phones are, I think it’s unscrupulous of Samsung to not address the issue and still continue charging a premium.

BATTERY

When I first got my phone, the battery life was SO POOR I thought I got a defective model (it would drain like 1-2% PER MINUTE, and that was just with regular browsing). After looking up potential solutions online, including reducing the refresh rate to 60Hz, turning off always-on mode, putting all of my apps to deep sleep, and reducing the screen brightness to like 20%, it was still not improving by much – so I called up the service centre. They asked me to check the battery performance and concluded that it was caused by ‘usage of external third party apps’ rather than the phone itself, which was ridiculous to me because wtf would you buy a phone for if not to use third party apps? I mean, even Instagram is a third party app.. so I can’t browse social media on a phone that costs RM2,299?

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Box and back cover

I was panicking and thinking if I could get a refund, but thankfully, after a couple of days, the phone’s battery life seemed to stabilise (this apparently happens with new phones as they try to observe your usage patterns and maximise battery life for you) Light usage now yields me about 8 to 10 hours. Heavy usage, such as when playing games, will give me 3 hours at most. I still have it running at minimum – low brightness, deep sleeping apps, etc. to achieve this result. So, when compared to my old Samsung Galaxy A8 Star, which has excellent battery life and can last for days on idle, the S20 FE fares poorly. Again, this comes down to the Exynos chip, which has been criticised for poor performance and causing battery drain.

Another thing to note : the phone supports ‘fast charging’ at 25W, but it still takes an hour to charge from like 20% to full.

STORAGE SPACE

The 4G variant has a single SIM and 128GB of storage space, as compared to the 5G which offers up to 256GB. I think 128 is plenty for my needs.

CAMERA

The main thing I look for in a smartphone is a good camera, and this is where the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE shines. Boasting triple cameras at the back including a 12MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens and an 8MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, it also has a 32MP punch-hole front camera. The photos and videos produced are crisp, with good detailing and colour, and the phone’s Full HD Super Amoled display helps to showcase the media you’ve snapped with perfect clarity. There are also many modes to choose from, such as Food, Panorama, Night (the night mode is pretty good too) and an interesting feature called Single Take, an AI-powered function that captures up to 10 photos per second while recording a 15-second video clip, then picks out the best moments and intelligently comes up with ways to present the captured content.

Sample 4K video captured using my Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
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Sample photo
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Sample photo

LOOK AND FEEL

The 5G version offers more colours to choose from, but the 4G options aren’t bad either. They all have this fun, ‘pop’ like colour scheme with hues such as Cloud Orange, Cloud Lavender and Cloud Red. The back of the phone is plastic, but it feels solid. It weighs around 190g, which is not too heavy. The phone also offers a good grip, unlike my old J7 Pro which I destroyed because it kept slipping from my grasp and hitting the floor lmao.

OTHER PERKS

As befitting of a semi-flagship, it has water and dust resistance. The stereo speakers are good, with the sound filling up the space – but the phone lacks a headphone jack, so you’ll have to use wireless buds if you’re looking for some privacy.

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Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 4G (Exynos 990) is an okay phone. There, I said it. I love the camera, it runs smoothly, and I like how it looks and feels. But the battery life and overheating issues are major turn-offs for me. Perhaps the Snapdragon version would fare better – users have said that they don’t encounter as many problems as with Exynos. And since Samsung Malaysia is having an online sale right now for the S20 FE 4G Snapdragon, this might be as good a time as any to make the purchase.

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