Samsung Galaxy S20 review

5G, a 120Hz display and more debut on the Galaxy S20

The Samsung Galaxy S20 laying down on a table
(Image: © TechRadar)

TechRadar Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S20 isn’t the most cutting-edge of Samsung’s S20 lineup – that honor goes to the Galaxy S20 Ultra – but it’s still a powerful phone with an ergonomic and attractive design, and the introduction of new features like 5G, the 120Hz display and upgraded rear cameras make it an outstanding handset in its own right.

Pros

  • +

    A truly fantastic display

  • +

    Strong camera performance

  • +

    Lots of power and 5G-ready

Cons

  • -

    Price is higher, especially for 5G

  • -

    Erratic fingerprint scanner

  • -

    Doesn’t support all 5G networks

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Two-minute review 

This Samsung Galaxy S20 review has us asking 'what happened to the Galaxy S11?' Samsung skipped a few numbers for the Galaxy S20, which took over the flagship mantle from 2019’s Galaxy S10. While it may be a confusing jump, there’s good reason for it, as Samsung has packed a lot in: it's a massive upgrade, especially if you’re keen to get your first 5G phone.

The Galaxy S20 is cheaper, and easier to handle, than its siblings the Galaxy S20 Plus and gargantuan Galaxy S20 Ultra, but that doesn’t mean this is a cheap or low-spec device. To the contrary, it's got most of the top-tier flagship elements of its pricier and larger siblings but at the lowest price – until you get to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition), which makes even more compromises.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is no longer the newest Galaxy S flagship from the company though, as the Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra have now been launched and are all available to buy. We've put all three of the latest phones through full reviews and they're both top phones, as you'd expect.

Rumors are already swirling about the Samsung Galaxy S22 as well meaning this phone could feel even older soon, although there’s no confirmation of a release date just yet.

Not only that, but the Samsung Galaxy S21 actually has a lower launch price than the Samsung Galaxy S20 did - so you might want to consider the newer phone instead. Of course, you'll be able to pick the S20 up at a discount now, and the older phone is actually better in some ways. In any case, it's worth checking out our Samsung Galaxy S21 review before buying either.

As for the Samsung Galaxy S20, you get the following: a 6.2-inch screen with a fast 120Hz refresh rate, 5G download speeds (where available), high-spec cameras on both sides of the phone, and a big battery to boot.

This is the phone to get if you want to try out the 2020 tech that Samsung has to offer, but you don’t want a large phone, or a large dent in your wallet. You could go for the Ultra if you want more storage or a 108MP camera, and can stretch to the price tag, but for day-to-day use the S20 is going to be the best choice in the range for most people.

Under the hood is a powerful chipset, either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 (where you live will determine which you’ll get) as well as either 8GB or 12GB of RAM, depending on whether you buy the 4G or 5G phone. And some people will only be able to buy the 5G phone – you can read on below to find out which versions are available in your region.

The camera is another highlight of the Galaxy S20, with Samsung boosting a lot of specs on the rear array. All three main cameras have been improved (including increased pixel sizes to improve night time photography by allowing more light in), and there are also a few software tweaks to improve the overall experience.

The telephoto lens is even better than the one on the Galaxy S10 too, allowing you to shoot high-quality 3x optical zoom shots or stretch all the way to a 30x digital zoom. The Galaxy S20 Ultra has higher camera specs overall, but most people will be more than satisfied with the shooter on this phone.

Another highlight of the Galaxy S20 is its 4,000mAh battery. It’s larger than the cell in the S10, and we’ve found the battery life to be strong with typical use – this phone isn’t going to last you much longer than one day of normal use, but what smartphone does?

The expanded capacity has had one negative consequence: it’s squeezed out the headphone jack. It's the same story with the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, and it's the first time Samsung has dropped the feature from its S range.

The Galaxy S20 is missing some of the top-end features that the Galaxy S20 Ultra is showing off, let alone the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it’s more affordable, and easier to hold or store in your pocket, and while it may not be the most impressive device from Samsung in 2020, or as up to date as Samsung's 2021 phones, it’s a powerful handset that will more than satisfy most who buy it.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 laying down on a bench

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy S20 release date and price  

  • Starts at $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 for 128GB storage
  • 4G version for £799 / AU$1,349 / AED 3,199
  • Has been replaced with the newer Galaxy S21
Samsung Galaxy S20 specs

Weight: 163g
Dimensions: 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm
Display size: 6.2-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3200
Chipset: Snapdragon 865 / Exynos 990
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB
Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Pre-installed software: Android 10
Battery: 4,000mAh
Charging: 25W wired, 15W wireless 

Brace yourself: you’re going to pay more for the Galaxy S20 than the Galaxy S10 due to its 5G upgrade, improved cameras and larger 6.2-inch 120Hz display.

In the US, UK and Australia the Galaxy S20 5G price at launch was $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 for the version with 128GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. You can add extra storage with a microSD card up to 1TB, but if you want 256GB or 512GB of internal storage you’ll have to buy the S20 Ultra. 

The phone is also available in a 4G version in some markets, including the UK, Australia and UAE, priced at £799 / AU$1,349 / AED 3,199 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

If you live in the US, you'll only be able to get a 5G variant unless you're willing to import the device. We've used the 5G variant for the purpose of this review, but if you wanted to opt for the cheaper 4G version (if it's available where you live) the specs are largely the same aside from connectivity.

That 4G phone aside, the addition of 5G means you're paying more for2020's base model than for the base-model S10. In the US at least, the flagship inherits the Galaxy S10 Plus launch price – $100 more than the base-model S10. It also matches the $999 iPhone 11 Pro launch cost in the US, although Apple’s phone has a smaller 5.8-inch display, and that price gets you just 64GB of storage.

All phones go down in price over time though, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 is no exception - while Samsung still charges full price, other retailers often sell it at a discount.

It's likely to start dropping a lot more soon too, as the Samsung Galaxy S21 has now gone on sale. Though interestingly that new phone actually has a lower launch price (of $799 / £769 / AU$1,249) than the Galaxy S20, and is in some ways a spec downgrade.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 is a little trickier to track down now the Galaxy S21 is out there with Samsung no longer stocking it directly. Many retailers are also focusing on the S21 now meaning refurbished hardware may be your only option. 

That makes the choice of which to buy more confusing than usual - we'd be inclined to say that it's no longer worth paying full price for the Samsung Galaxy S20, but at even slightly less than the Galaxy S21 costs it could be worth considering.

Samsung Galaxy S20 design and display

  • Relatively small 6.2-inch screen
  • 3040 x 1440 resolution and 120Hz refresh rate
  • Familiar design to S10 but with different camera bump

The Samsung Galaxy S20 standing up on a bench

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung S20 has a 6.2-inch display, offering exactly 0.1-inch more screen real estate than 2019’s 6.1-inch S10. It doesn’t dramatically change the overall size of the phone, and its max resolution remains the same as that of recent Samsung Galaxy S models at WQHD+ (3040 x 1440).

Samsung is still offering a default resolution of Full HD+ (2220 x 1080), which looks more than sharp enough for most tasks, and saves battery; you’ll need to head into the settings to switch to the higher resolution.

A big upgrade for the Galaxy S20 is the maximum 120Hz refresh-rate display. This is double the rate at which the display refreshes on most phones, including previous Samsung devices, and what it means in practice is smoother scrolling and animations.

This is particularly pertinent when you’re mobile gaming as it allows for a more immersive experience and could even give you the edge over an opponent, but it makes everyday things like scrolling through your social media feeds look smoother too.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this on a smartphone - both the Asus ROG Phone 2 and Razer Phone 2 feature similar tech - but this is arguably the first time we’ve seen it on a mainstream device. 

The new 120Hz refresh rate isn’t WQHD+-compatible though meaning you have to pick whether you want the higher resolution display or the faster loading picture.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 lying down on a table

(Image credit: Future)

Touch-sensitivity is also upped, to 240Hz from 120Hz to make games more responsive, by sensing your finger brushes on the screen at a much higher rate than previously. This isn’t something we found noticeable when we were using the phone, but those more dedicated to their mobile gaming may find that it makes a difference.

We know an increase in screen size might be off-putting for some (there’s pent-up demand for smaller one-hand-friendly phones), and we have good news and bad news about that. First the good news: while the S20 is taller than the S10, it’s also a little narrower, with a 20:9 aspect ratio, and the screen is only marginally bigger.

Here’s the bad news: there’s no Galaxy S10e sequel (that was the smallest, and cheapest, of the S20 range) to offer those with smaller hands a 5.8-inch display size. 

The S20 is as small as Samsung’s 2020 S phones get, and while we appreciate the smaller front-facing camera punchole and return of HDR10+ to the display for punchier and more detailed images when gaming and watching movies, a bit of screen size diversity would be even more welcome. 

The Samsung Galaxy S20 standing up by a plant

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S20 has one of the best screens available on a smartphone right now,