The Samsung Galaxy S20 was released in March 2020 – but the ex-flagship is far from being obsolete. NextPit took a second look at this smartphone in 2021 and put it through the paces again. Is the Galaxy S20 worth picking up now after experiencing a price drop? Sit tight and grab some popcorn, things are going to get exciting!
- Compact feel
- Subtle display curves
- 120 Hz smoothness
- Good multi-tasker
- Fast charging
- Space Zoom is a gimmick
- No 120 Hz at QHD+
In brief: The Samsung Galaxy S20
Right out of the box, the Galaxy S20 could easily have been released in 2021. Samsung managed to bring a modern and, above all, timeless smartphone onto the market in March last year. The thin bezels that include a punch-hole notch, a high-quality AMOLED display, and the 120 Hertz refresh rate are more than capable of keeping up with top smartphones one year later.
The same goes for the camera, which Samsung hasn't exactly revamped in its successor. Anyway, the differences between the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20 are so small that I think there's still plenty of life left in its predecessor. It is only the performance of the 7-nanometer Exynos 990 that continues to plague the device.
However, you end up with the advantage of having expandable memory to play with if you decide to settle for the older Samsung handset. In the US, you can pick up the Galaxy S20 in June 2021 for less than 600 Dollars.
The Galaxy S20 is, therefore, a real gem today if you are currently in the market for a high-quality Samsung smartphone. However, do bear in mind that Samsung's four-year guarantee of security updates also applies to the S20, but seeing that it was released last year, the Galaxy S21 would be able to last slightly longer.
Design and display: Old design is much more reserved
When I wrote about what's new in the Galaxy S21 series earlier this year in January 2021, design happened to be at the top of my list. This is because, despite the fact that Samsung took a bolder step in 2021 and went for an interesting design in terms of the rear camera bump, there is still something mature about the Galaxy S20 that is worth checking out. All Galaxy S21 models feature a resemblance to a flappy dog-ear that blends in with the sides of the chassis.
What I liked:
- Compact form factor because of the 6.2-inch display
- Thin bezels and subtle punch-hole notch
- Minimally curved display edges that look elegant
- Glass back panel
What I disliked:
- Design was rather boring overall
- Glass back seemed to be a bit hollow
At the back of the Galaxy S20 you'll find a classic camera bump. However, the dimensions that stand at 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm are almost identical to the Galaxy S21. This is mainly due to the large 6.2-inch AMOLED display with a punch-hole notch that appears on both devices. The Galaxy S20 is a bit lighter at 163 grams, by the way.
The Galaxy S20 also features minimally curved sides that change the feel a bit when you hold it in your hand. The older AMOLED display also boasts the advantage of offering a maximum resolution of 3,200 x 1,440 pixels. It is only when you want to take advantage of the 120 Hz refresh rate, that the resolution will be limited to FHD+ – which then places it on par with the current Samsung smartphone.
If you're not fond of polycarbonate backs, you'll also be able to sleep better with the S20. Yes, Samsung has included a glass back – but this one feels a bit more hollow than the plastic back in the Galaxy S21, at least in my opinion.
TL;DR: Overall, the Galaxy S20 has held up surprisingly well over the past year. The display is still one of the best screens you'll find in the smartphone market, and the smartphone's design is also ready for 2021. I would easily take the Galaxy S20 on the road without feeling embarrassed by it!
Performance: Exynos 990 or Snapdragon 865?
The Galaxy S20 is powered by different SoCs. In the US, Samsung is using the Snapdragon 865, while pretty much the rest of the world gets the Exynos 990 SoC which was developed by the Korean giant. Both are 7 nm SoCs, and there has been a hefty discussion which of the two Processors is better. Some YouTubers have had the opportunity to test both, and apparently the Snapdragon version delivers an up to 25% better performance while also not running into overheating issues. We've reviewed the EU version of the S20 that comes with the Exynos 990.
What I liked:
- Good performance in mobile games
- Smooth Android experience
- Already comes with Wi-Fi 6
What I disliked:
- Less power than the current Exynos 2100 / Snapdragon 888 SoCs
- Less powerful Exynos 990 in most markets
With the Exynos 2100 chipset, Samsung has launched a really powerful SoC in 2021. Due to competitive pressure caused by Qualcomm and their Snapdragon 888, Samsung had to come up with something good. They promptly copied the tri-cluster design and followed the 5-nanometer manufacturing process. In benchmarks as well as for everyday use, the SoC delivered a very convincing performance.
The Galaxy S20 is powered by an older processor (obviously), which is the Exynos 990 that was manufactured using the 7-nanometer process. By the way, you can read what that means exactly in our detailed SoC guide. On a fundamental level, the Exynos 990 is more inefficient. However, since high-end smartphones are launched with way too much performance underneath the hood in the first place, and any performance deficit was not that noticeable in my opinion.
For my test, I installed games such as PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile on the Galaxy S20. Both games shone with refreshingly short loading times and delivered a smooth in-game performance. However, let's take a look at the benchmark results in any case:
Samsung Galaxy S20 benchmark comparison
|Samsung Galaxy S20||Samsung Galaxy S21||Realme GT|
|Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi)||896 / 2,737||1,005 / 3,204||1,116 / 3,480|
|3D Mark WildLife||4,481||5,491||5,947|
Yes, the Exynos 990 is inferior to existing high-end SoCs. But as mentioned earlier, you won't be pushing the processors to their performance limits anytime soon in the first place.
On the connectivity side, be aware that the Exynos model of the Galaxy S20 comes both in a 5G and a Non-5G version, while the Snapdragon model always features 5G. Furthermore, the Galaxy S20 is ready with WiFi 6 and uses the Bluetooth 5.0 wireless standard. In addition, Samsung also offers its DeX mode in the older model, which also works wirelessly if desired. The phone also supports Samsung Pay thanks to the built-in NFC chip.
TL;DR: The Galaxy S20 is far from a performance monster in 2021 – but it wasn't one in 2020, either. Although you can buy more powerful smartphones for less money – like the Realme GT – the Exynos 990's performance is more than enough for everyday use.
Camera: Good pictures with few frills
The Samsung Galaxy S20 relies on a triple camera at the back. The module consist of a wide-angle camera at 12-megapixels, a 64-megapixel hybrid zoom lens, and a 12-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera. For selfies, you have a 10-megapixel shooter at your disposal.
What I liked:
- Really good overall image quality
- Camera app is convincing
- Doesn't fall for the megapixel trap
- Many new features have been included via software update
What I disliked:
- Portrait mode is too awkward to use
- 3x zoom is actually a lame digital zoom
- Camera bump is much less chic than on the Galaxy S21
Samsung didn't upgrade the Galaxy S20's camera this year. That means you'll find the same triple-camera setup in the Galaxy S21 as in the Galaxy S20, and that's not such a bad thing. After all, the pictures that both smartphone models take are really something to behold. My only caveat here is the triple camera that falls short with 1.1x optical magnification and 3x digital zoom that I found to be a misleading marketing stunt.
Camera setup in the Galaxy S20
|Ultra-wide angle sensor||12 MP||1.4 μm||F2.2|
|Telephoto lens||64 MP||0.8 μm||F2.0|
|Wide-angle sensor||12 MP||1.8 μm||F1.8|
|Front camera||10 MP||1.22 μm||F2.2|
Apart from this, Samsung has done a lot right with the S20. The colors are rich, the 12-megapixel resolution is perfectly adequate, and in tandem, you get a flexible and fun snapshot camera. The "low" resolution of the main camera is not a disadvantage in my opinion.
As many manufacturers now rely on high-resolution sensors, only to compress the images again later on via pixel-binning, doing so does not necessarily equate to having an advantage as you can tell from our camera blind test. The camera blind test saw the iPhone 12 Pro Max's 12-megapixel camera trump everyone else, especially in night shots.
I also think that it is commendable that Samsung is bringing many of the new camera features of the S21 series to older models, and this includes the S20 via software updates. Discounting the 30x space zoom, you can use the single-shot function for 15 seconds, export images in 8K from videos, or record videos with HDR10+. It is only the director's view that remains reserved for the newer SoC, and I couldn't find a dedicated portrait mode on the S20.
Speaking of video features: The S20 captures images in 8K resolution at maximum. Since you can move the large files to the microSD card later, you get to enjoy this advantage over the S21 that lacks a memory card expansion slot.
TL;DR: Samsung deliberately did not upgrade the camera of the Galaxy S20 in its successor. The triple camera at the back still takes good pictures and, according to some comments from the NextPit community, has gained even more quality via software optimizations in 2021. Cool!
Battery life: Here, the S20 falls a little behind
The Galaxy S20 has a battery rated at 4,000 mAh which can be recharged via an included (!) 25-watt charger. Alternatively, it also offers 15 watts of wireless charging and even reverse wireless charging at 4.5 watts.
What I liked:
- Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging
- Charger included with each purchase
What I disliked:
- Smaller capacity battery at 4,000 mAh
- Fast charging is not so fast
You don't find a 4,000 mAh battery in current smartphones too often anymore. The trend is clearly moving towards the 5,000 mAh mark which naturally ensures longer runtimes. When David tested the Galaxy S20 in March 2020, the battery life was still all right for him.
With a permanent Wi-Fi connection turned on and maintaining a permanent refresh rate of 120 Hz, he easily managed to keep the handset running for 1.5 days. That is adequate for most people, but a lot of it also depends on your usage pattern. Samsung did not increase the battery capacity in the Galaxy S21 and the fast charging technology remained the same.
The maximum charging speed is 25 watts, which is a shortcoming compared to the competition and this could be a turn-off for some. This is because even the mid-range market features smartphones that have far faster charging speeds – such as 50-watts. A full charging cycle with the Galaxy S20 took me just under an hour and a half. A charge from 10 to 50 percent took 40 minutes. That's pretty long to juice up a smartphone in 2021.
What works in this flagship's favor is the presence of wireless charging and reverse wireless charging support. Why not reinvest the savings accrued from buying the Galaxy S20 by picking up the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro? This allows you to charge the in-ear Bluetooth headphones via the smartphone. Pretty neat, eh?
TL;DR: With a 4,000 mAh battery, Samsung won't blow anyone away in 2021. Nevertheless, the battery runtime of up to one and a half days should please most average users. Faster quick-charging is available from other manufacturers, but your battery will definitely degenerate faster after a few years of use.
Samsung Galaxy S20 technical specifications
Conclusion: Buying tip, but not always super cheap
Looking at a phone from last year for a review was more fun than I thought it would be! The Galaxy S20 was either pretty ahead of its time, or the smartphone world didn't come up with too many innovations last year. What I find exciting is that there are some details where the S20 is superior to its successor.
For example, you can expand the memory via micro SD cards, there is a glass back and the display has a higher resolution. But maybe these are the reasons that slow down the price drop of the S20 a bit. As mentioned at the beginning, a price of 600 to 650 Dollars in June 2021 is normal and if you're lucky, you can find the phone even cheaper.
Last but not least: Samsung's warranty for security updates is extended by one year with the S21. If that does not bother you, you can safely buy the S20 as of today.