It’s been a long couple of weeks, but the wait is now finally over. Today we’re ready to go on a deep dive into Samsung’s most important phones of 2020; the new Galaxy S20 series represents a huge jump for the Korean company, and also for the wider smartphone industry. The new devices have a lot of brand-new features premiering for the first time in mainstream flagship devices, and some cutting-edge capabilities that are outright new to the industry as a whole.

The S20 series are probably best defined by their picture capturing capabilities, offering a slew of new camera hardware that represents Samsung’s most ambitious smartphone camera update ever. From a “periscope” design telephoto lens with 4x optical magnification and up to a quoted 100x digital magnification, to a new and humongous 108MP main camera sensor with a brand-new pixel array setup, the new Galaxy S20 Ultra is definitely an exotic device when it comes to its photography features. The new Galaxy S20+ also sees some massive new upgrades, ranging from a new, larger main camera sensor, to the innovative use of a 64MP wide-angle module that allows for high magnification hybrid crop-zooming. Overall it too is a big step-up in the camera department and certainly shouldn’t be overshadowed by its Ultra sibling. The phones are not only the first smartphones able to capture 8K video – but they’re also amongst the first consumer grade hardware out on the market with the capability, which is certainly an eye-catching feature.

The new S20 series are also among the first devices to come with the latest generation of processors on the market, pioneering the usage of the new Snapdragon 865 as well as the new Exynos 990 SoCs. In recent years, it’s always been a contentious topic for Samsung’s flagship phones as the company continues to dual-source the SoCs powering its devices – with some years the differences between the two variants being larger than one would hope for. We have both chipset variants of the Galaxy S20 Ultra as well as an Exynos variant of the S20+ for today’s review, and we’ll be uncovering all the differences between the models.

Let’s go over the specifications and the designs in more detail:

Samsung Galaxy S20 Series
  Galaxy S20 Galaxy S20+ Galaxy S20 Ultra
SoC (North America, China, Korea, Japan)

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 
1x Cortex-A77 @ 2.84GHz
3x Cortex-A77 @ 2.42GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.80GHz

Adreno 640 @ 587MHz
(Europe & Rest of World)

Samsung Exynos 990
2x Exynos M5 @ 2.73GHz
2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.50GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 2.00GHz

Mali G77MP11 @ 800 MHz
Display 6.2-inch
3200 x 1440 (20:9)
6.7-inch
3200 x 1440 (20:9)
6.9-inch
3200 x 1440 (20:9)
SAMOLED
HDR10+
1200nits peak brightness

120Hz Refresh Rate (@FHD+ software rendering)
Dimensions 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm
163 grams
161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm
187 grams
166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8 mm
220 grams
RAM 8 GB (LTE)
12 GB (5G)
8 GB (LTE)
12 GB (5G)
12 / 16 GB
NAND
Storage
5G = 128 GB

LTE = 128 GB + mSD
5G = 128-512 GB

LTE = 128 GB + mSD
16 GB model = 512 GB

12 GB = 128 or 256 GB
+ microSD
Battery 4000mAh (15.4Wh) typ.

3880mAh (14.93Wh) rated
4500mAh (17.32Wh) typ.

4370mAh (16.82Wh) rated
5000mAh (19.25Wh) typ.

4855mAh (18.69Wh) rated
15W Wireless Charging
25W
Fast Charging
45W
Super Fast Charging
Front Camera 10MP
4K video recording
F/2.2, 80-degree
40MP
4K video recording
F/2.2, 80-degree
Primary Rear Camera 79° Wide Angle
12MP 1.8µm Dual Pixel PDAF



 
79° Wide Angle
108MP 0.8µm DP-PDAF


3x3 Pixel Binning to 12MP
8K24 Video Recording
fixed f/1.8 optics
OIS, auto HDR, LED flash
4K60, 1080p240, 720p960 high-speed recording
Secondary
Rear Camera
76° Wide Angle
(Cropping / digital zooming telephoto)
64MP 0.8µm

F/2.0 optics, OIS

8K24 Video Recording
24° Telephoto
(5x optical magnification)
48MP 0.8µm

2x2 Pixel Binning to 12MP
F/3.5 prism optics, OIS
Tertiary
Rear Camera
120° Ultra-Wide Angle
12MP 1.4µm f/2.2
Extra
Camera
- Time of Flight (ToF) 3D Sensor
4G / 5G
Modem
Snapdragon 5G - Snapdragon Modem X55  (Discrete)

(LTE Category 24/22)
DL = 2500 Mbps - 7x20MHz CA, 1024-QAM
UL = 316 Mbps 3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave*)
DL = 7000 Mbps
UL = 3000 Mbps

*Depending on region and model
Exynos 5G - Exynos Modem 5123 (Discrete)

(LTE Category 24/22)
DL = 3000 Mbps 8x20MHz CA 1024-QAM
UL = 422 Mbps ?x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6)
DL = 5100 Mbps
Exynos 4G - Exynos Modem 5213 (Discrete)

(LTE Category 24/22)
DL = 3000 Mbps 8x20MHz CA 1024-QAM
UL = 422 Mbps ?x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
SIM Size NanoSIM + eSIM
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2x2 MU-MIMO,
BT 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BDS
Connectivity USB Type-C
no 3.5mm headset
Special Features Under-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
(Qualcomm QC 2.0, Adaptive Fast Charging, USB-PD),
reverse wireless charging (WPC & PMA),

IP68 water resistance
Launch OS Android 10 with Samsung OneUI 2.0
Launch Prices 128GB 5G:
$999 / 999€ / £899
128GB 5G:
$1199 / 1099€ / £999

512GB 5G:
$1299 / 1249€ / n/a £
128GB 5G:
$1399 / 1349€ / £1199

512GB 5G:
$1499 / 1549€ / £1399
4G variants for 100€ / 100£ cheaper
available only in certain markets
5G only
 

Hardware-wise, the new S20 series essentially checks all the boxes that you’d expect (or could ask for) in a 2020 phone. The new Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 both bring lots of performance to the table, and probably the most talked about aspect of the new generation is their ability to support new 5G networks. In most developed countries with early 5G deployments, the S20 series are indeed positioned as 5G devices – and technically their naming scheme contains the 5G moniker, such as the “Galaxy S20+ 5G” or the “Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G”, including our review devices today.

Samsung however still offers 4G variants of the phones in some countries where 5G rollout is slow – these still feature the newest SoCs and their 5G capable modems, however they lack the corresponding 5G RF hardware needed to enable that radio connectivity. The silver lining here is that these 4G models do come at a cheaper price than the 5G variants – essentially matching the pricing of the S10 series in their respective configurations.

The US in particular gets the most capable and connectivity-rich models of the S20 series; it’s currently the only market where the new phones will be launching with mmWave capabilities – at least at this point in time. It’s to be noted, however, that mmWave connectivity is currently only available on the S20+ and S20 Ultra, as Samsung’s been quoted to say that the smaller S20 didn’t have sufficient internal space to house the new mmWave modules from Qualcomm. A special variant of the S20 with mmWave is said to follow up on Verizon in a few months.

The spec list is long and complex, but a few highlights are that the new phones now come with 12GB of RAM for the 5G models, with that going up to a massive 16GB for the 512GB Galaxy S20 Ultra. 128GB remains the minimum storage configuration, and the phones come with UFS 3.0-type storage chips, promising top of the line performance. The microSD slot also survives – which might be a boon for those wanting to record 8K video, because at 1GB/minute, it’s a storage killer.

At the front of the new devices, we see a new design language dictating the new form-factor and aesthetics of the series. Centre-stage we find Samsung’s newest generation AMOLED screens. Compared to the S10 series, things have been elongated to a new, taller 20:9 aspect ratio, with the phones now all seeing a notable lengthening of their dimensions by a couple of millimeters.

The display resolution is still 1440p – 3040x1440 to be exact – and unlike the Note10 series, the smaller S20 doesn’t see a downgrade to a 1080p panel, to which I've breathed a sigh of relief.  What does make the S20 series' screen super special though is their support of a high 120Hz refresh rate. Samsung didn’t just aim to match the 90Hz capabilities of the 2019 competitors, but to one-up them. It’s an amazing feature that really stands out for the S20s, giving one a sense of fluidity and smoothness that usually reserved just for special gaming devices.

Samsung has also redesigned their hole-punch camera. The new design language had already been introduced in the Note10 series, but the S20 phones further reduce the size of the camera cut-out. Comparing the S20+ to last year’s S10+, the difference is quite striking. The reduced footprint also reduces the thickness of the notification bar, which had been quite thick on the S10 series, further expanding the usable screen estate of the phones. I think, barring an actual see-through-screen front camera design, it’s as sleek a design as we’re going to get until that technology is ready for prime-time.

Part of the screen’s design, but also of the wider language of the phone, is the reduced curvature of the display. Curved screens have been a main-stay for Samsung flagship phones since the Galaxy S8, but over the years the company has refined the designs for better usability. This year, the S20 series sees the largest regression of the display curvature to date, with a much-reduced radius that doesn’t go nearly as far to the sides of the phones as its predecessors. What you end up with is the flattest screen from a Galaxy S phone in recent years, without actually going fully flat.

While the front curvature has been reduced, the back curvature has been expanded. In this respect the phone has more in common with the Galaxy S10 5G than the regular S10 series, as it adopts the same, much narrower side-frame aesthetic. The rest of the side of the phone is covered by the curved back glass panel – and I have to say that this is probably one of my favorite design features of the S20+, as it lends it some incredible ergonomics that allow it an in-hand feel that’s much narrower than what you’d expect from the phone. It’s only 0.4mm narrower than the S10+, but it just feels that much better in hand thanks to the new curves.

It’s to be noted that the curved back glass sides aren’t just done for aesthetics, but also serve as a technical enabler for the mmWave modules which sit on the inside of the phone (two modules facing the lateral sides, one facing the back). Had the metal frame been wider, as in classical phone designs, these would have a harder time transmitting and receiving such high-frequency signals in an optimal manner.

On the back of the phone there’s obviously the new camera designs – we’ll go into the technical details of the new cameras in a dedicated page later in the article. I’ll also talk about the S20 Ultra more extensively in just a bit, but first I wanted to give my opinion on the S20+.

Having used the phone for a couple of weeks now, I’ve gotten used to the new camera position. It’s a departure from the classical center-camera positioning we’ve been used to in Galaxy S phones ever since the first model 10 years ago, but it’s become a technical necessity given the more complex camera systems out there and the better internal component space management it allows. It’s a bigger camera bump as that of the S10 series – and yes, it now causes the phone to no longer be stable on a flat surface, with it now wobbling when pressing the left side of the screen. Other phones out there have had this characteristic for years (Looking at you, iPhones), so it’s just something that one has to accept and live with.

A few other details of the S20 series' design include changes in their finish. I do like that we once again have a black variant that’s actually fully black, including the metal frame. One aspect that I think Samsung missed the mark on was that they did not adopt a matte / frosted back glass option. Such designs have been slowly introduced by vendors since 2018, and last year was most notably made mainstream by Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro series. The Galaxy S20s still being the same glossy finger-print magnets in contrast feels a bit dated.

Another change is in the audio department. The new center front-facing camera design means that the earpiece speaker has to undergo a bit of an internal redesign. The S20 here is a ton louder than its predecessor, to the point that I find that the earpiece speaker is now louder than the main speaker. We’ll be going over the audio quality changes later on in the article, but it’s probably one of the more striking differences you’ll notice compared to the S10 series. The main bottom speaker remains similar to the S10.

And course, the S20 series no longer come with 3.5mm headphone jacks. I think I’ve riled on the topic enough over the years, but least to say I’m very disappointed by Samsung for this anti-consumer choice. Sony notably tracked back on their decision to deprecate the headphone jack, bringing it back on the new Xperia 1 II – so maybe there’s some hope Samsung might do the same, as long as there’s sufficient negative feedback from users.

Design, Continued: An Ultra Mega Phone
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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Probably one of the reasons Samsung still continues to sell the S10 series. They're really excellent value right now, and you're not missing out on too much. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    You are literally getting just one more year of software support going for s10 series... samsung software support policy is abysmal with less than two years of real support and from there just security. I got both iphone 11 pro max and exynos note 9, if I put aside the cr*ppy 9810 - it will not receive even the oneUI 2.1 as an update, while samsung will soon release it for s10 line. Enough said, note 9 is year and a half old.

    How can you recommend someone 1000 euro or 1400 euro phone if it will be supported for 1.5 years and from there 1.5 more security updates next to apple with 5 years FULL support with major, minor, day one, betas + security update for old iphones like 4s and 5 (2011 and 2012 respectably)?
    Reply
  • goatfajitas - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    You do realize the phone doesn't stop working when it doesn't get an OS update right? TBH, neither Android or IOS has added a whole lot in the past few years, its just a yearly cadence of very minor updates and not getting them means almost zero in actual use. Reply
  • Featherinmycap - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    I think there have been a lot of added features to IOS in the last 3 years that I use a great deal. Not saying that Android didnt already have some of these features, but for IOS users we got with IOS 11; a file manager (finally), Messages sync with iCloud, screen recording, useful improvements to Siri and ApplePay. IOS12; lots of performance improvements (lots), Screentime, Shortcuts (scripting), CarPlay, Animoji Memoji, Tracking prevention, IOS13; Single Sign on, external storage, Dark Mode, better support for keyboards, trackpads/mice, etc. Reply
  • Famorcan007 - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    I think it's because Android mostly has offered those features(file manager,screen recording, external storage,support for mice etc.) since way back compared to iOS' slow but steady trickle of features that's why iOS users feel every OS update is huge and significant. I'm using a Note 4(my backup device) right now to comment which doesn't feel too crippled compared to my Android 9 P20 pro. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    Let's not find an excuse - software support is software support. Security is security - some of us keep all their personal info on their device (most of us) + bank accounts and whatnot, risking compromise on your phone is not that innocent compared to what was like back in the days. IOS adds rapidly more features for sure compared to android that recently starts to look more and more like IOS (and I personally totally don't like that), but still added some good stuff under the hood and some new features.

    It's not serious to sell 1400 euro phone that is supported for one year and a half. I own exynos note 9 - it's 1.5 years old and already samsung dropped the support, s10 line received oneUI 2.1, note 9 will not. How is that for my 1000 euro phone + double served with that cr*ppy exynos 9810 in it. Now it's in my GF and I am rolling iphone 11 pro max. I prefer android and love oneUI, but I am tired to be a second hand customer.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    Don't know what you're talking about. My Note8 just got another update days ago, one that I preferred not to have because each update comes with a risk of bricking the device while potential changes to the UI are not always welcome either. I also got it ~30% off retail a few months after release, such has always been the state of Samsung, at least for S and Note.
    I'm no longer buying Samsung but the main reason is lack of the 3.5mm port, if I have to name another then it's between the questionable choice of telephoto in the smaller variants or the oversized device with a mediocre battery(I regard 5000mah to be mediocre for the size). I still do like the UI but I'm willing to look around.
    Reply
  • Psyside - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    "It's not serious to sell 1400 euro phone that is supported for one year and a half. I own exynos note 9 - it's 1.5 years old and already samsung dropped the support, s10 line received oneUI 2.1, note 9 will not. How is that for my 1000 euro phone"

    Very easy, with those "very old software features" Samsung can do what MAC can't, and don't get me start it on the utter crap IOS.

    Also don't spin it, Samsung offer 4 (four) years of security updates, so do your research before you type something.
    Reply
  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - link

    fanboy. Security update hahahahah iphone 4s and 5 still receives security updates - 9 years old phone for 4s. What you will say now?
    iphone receive FULL support with MAJOR ios versions, updates, minor updates, BETA versions, DAY ONE as their newest and most expensive phone - for 5-6 years and you are talking about 4 years of security updates roflmao. Samsung released note 9 with android 8 when android 9 was already released from more than a months. Oooo, it's enough time, because you can dev your skin and features on top of the dev previews, especially the later ones that are closer to final (for the more tricky/deeply integrated code) - so no excuse for what they did. Basically they gave me one major update - android 10 as android 9 should had been on the note 9 from the start. Even if we count 2, how is that next to 5-6 versions of ios?

    And before you talk some more fanboy bs that never used recent years iphones - ios brings a lot more in every new versions (adding features that was missing for no reason, like external USB flash support, file browser for the files on the phone, etc) while android 10 brings you what? More lockdown ios style, iphones gestures and pixel device that is a cheap iphone wannabe.

    Because of people like you samsung don't want to change their software support policy. Why should they? It costs money or now you will start with the argument how the phone hardware is not supporting oneUI 2.1 (for the note 9 that is 1.5 years old, but will not receive it most likely ;) ). Or maybe android 11 will be too much for the phone, right? :D

    Also I agree - my note 9 can do more than my iphone 11 pro max, but everything that the phones do both (and that's 99.9% of what you will end up using constantly) - the iphone 11 pro max makes the exynos note 9 look like a total utter joke - faster, smoother with NOT A SINGLE frame drop no matter what you do, gaming is insanely good with surprise - NOT A SINGLE frame drop, battery life is x3 times better, apps have MORE features and runs super smooth and great, speakers destroys the note 9 one, camera too is times better, materials are a lot better too, faceid is super good and fast - feels like I don't have any security on - never failed or gave me any issue. Fun fact, note 9 came with fortnite and recommended as gaming phone for that game. My exynos variant can't run smoothly the game even with 30fps cap medium settings and !1080p! while iphone XS max runs it 60fps high 2688x1242 without a single frame drop. Same goes for the 11 pro max, obviously.

    As for ios - it improves massively and adds more and more missing features/drops restrictions with every version. ios 14 is already known to drop more. I prefer android, because I can do more + I love oneUI, but that doesn't change the fact that in my country I will receive exynos and 1.5 years of decent support. And in the end of the day - I spend my time in apps, not in the settings menu and apps on ios are better, with more features, smoother, a lot of them exclusive to the platform. Can you play dead cells on your android device? No? Yeah, the port is expected around the end of the year, I have it from June 2019. Full blown civilization 6 on your android device? Yeah, will never come, I have it and it's 1:1 port that runs great. Can go on and on and on. If you spend your time tweaking settings, options, UI - good for you, I spend my time in games and apps.
    Reply
  • iSeptimus - Sunday, April 12, 2020 - link

    They really don't. 2 years max on updates and the security patches only come out when it is critical after that.

    My Galaxy Fold only just got One UI 2.1 and Android 10. The most expensive phone they do and they are already slowing down updates for it. Samsung suck at software.
    Reply

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