The Galaxy S20+ is a classic Samsung Galaxy that hits all the right notes, just like any other Galaxy phone in the past. We review.
The last few months have been taxing for Mr X. On so many levels. He got a new job. He got a new house. And then, the pandemic happened. Phew! In all the rush and the uncertainty that followed, one thing remained constant, a smartphone that he had got for himself just before things started to get, well, weird. The smartphone in question, the Samsung Galaxy S20+, has been by his side all this time, and in the words of Mr X himself, it has served him well.
I don’t know about you but I’ll say, the phone has served its purpose. It seems like a phone that you can bank on. In rain or in sunshine. I know those are far too many emotions for a piece of tech, that’ll probably become pointless, once the next big thing comes along, because that’s the sort of world we live in today. But you know what, the last few months have shown, life can be unpredictable. Life is unpredictable. One minute you’re out and about, one minute you’re under lockdown.
What sticks around though are the basics. A smartphone is essential, for everyone who can afford it. And for all those people, that smartphone must be good at all those basics and then some, especially in times like these. It must be reliable. The Galaxy S20+ is all that, and even though it’s not perfect, it’s got those basics right, and it is a very reliable smartphone. That’s what you need the most right now. So says Mr X.
Design and build quality
The Galaxy S20+ looks and feels familiar. Two slabs of Corning Gorilla Glass 6 held firmly together by a sleek metal frame, that’s the Galaxy S20+ for you. It’s a design we’ve all seen and felt over and over again, for quite some time now. But Mr X doesn’t see any problem with that. As long as the end-product’s so premium, so well-made, what’s to complain about, he asks. Mind you, Samsung has been refining its Galaxy phones year on year now, bringing subtle yet very useful upgrades to them, instead of just chasing new design trends blindly. This is a company that now clearly believes in offering both form and function in equal measure, at least as far as its conventional go-to products are concerned. Phones like the Galaxy S20+ are Samsung’s default Android flagships that buyers — who’re invested in such a category — look up to each year. Why spoil a good thing, Mr X says.
Okay then, let’s talk about the refinements. The Galaxy S20+ with its 6.7-inch screen would appear to be in and around the same ball figure as last year’s Galaxy Note 10+, which was a 6.8-inch towering giant, on paper. Only it isn’t in the real world. Not that the Galaxy Note 10+ was ridiculously huge or anything in the hands, but the Galaxy S20+ looks and feels much more pocketable, figuratively. Even though Samsung has climbed up the size ladder here, in comparison to the 6.4-inch Galaxy S10+, its all-round proportions are surprisingly, more manageable. The Galaxy S20+ somehow feels more compact than the Galaxy S10+ and yet it offers more real estate.
Samsung has achieved this by pushing the punch hole cutout for the selfie camera to the middle — taking cues from the Galaxy Note 10+ obviously — and stretching the screen on all sides further. Not only does this allow for a bigger near all-screen experience, the taller 20:9 aspect ratio also means you can fit more content, especially while scrolling through social media or browsing the web.
That display has received another important refinement too, in that, it does not curve as dangerously as Samsung’s past Galaxy phones. It’s a much flatter display, sort of like the Galaxy Note’s. This helps keep tabs on accidental touches, and also gives your hands some breathing space to hold onto. The Galaxy S20+ may be slippery, back facing down on a surface, but in the hands it’s got a knack to stick around. Samsung bundles a protective clear case in the box, just in case.
While Samsung went all out on refining the form and function, sadly, it skipped out on fancy colour choices. The Galaxy S20+ comes in plain black, gray and blue. Wish it was also available in “aura glow,” says Mr X.
Like the Galaxy Note 10+ and the Galaxy S10+, the Galaxy S20+ also uses Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED display. The resolution is QHD+. There’s support for HDR10+ playback as well. If you know a thing or two about Samsung, it makes the best smartphone displays. Samsung AMOLEDs are so good, even Apple uses them in its latest iPhones — with custom calibration, of course. Bottom line is, there’s nothing to complain about here. Whether you talk about brightness, or contrast, or outdoor visibility, or viewing angles, the Galaxy S20+ display is without a doubt best in class. Colours may be a tad oversaturated by default, but you can always change that from the phone’s settings.
The Galaxy S20+’ class-leading AMOLED display also has a high refresh rate of 120Hz. This means that it’s capable of rendering images 120 times per second. It’s fast and buttery smooth, says Mr X. Scrolling feels more fluid. Animations tend to be faster too. That’s relative to a more conventional 60Hz (or even 90Hz) panel. Samsung doesn’t dynamically adjust the phone’s refresh rate either, it’s always locked to 120Hz when enabled. That last bit has a catch. The Galaxy S20+’ display can run at 120Hz at 1080p+ or FHD+ resolution only. At the phone’s peak QHD+ resolution, you’ll have to make do with the slower 60Hz refresh rate. The Galaxy S20+ is a premium phone, it would have been nice to know you’re in complete control but, it is what it is, says Mr X.
Elsewhere, the Galaxy S20+ has the same ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner as the Galaxy Note 10+ and Galaxy S10+, and it’s still as befuddled as ever, according to Mr X. Considering that it’s the only secure way to unlock your Galaxy S20+, it would have been nice had Samsung also upgraded the tech to the newer standard this year, or probably made the authentication area slightly bigger. It’s definitely not the fastest or the most accurate sensors around.
Performance and battery life
In India, the Galaxy S20+ is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 990, while the model that’s sold in the US has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865. Here’s the technical low-down:
— The Exynos 990 is based on Samsung’s 7nm LPP (EUV) manufacturing process and has an 8-core CPU, with two custom Exynos Mongoose M5 cores clocked at 2.7GHz, two ARM Cortex-A76 cores clocked at 2.5GHz, and four ARM Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 2GHz. This is paired with a Mali-G77MP11 GPU.
— The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is meanwhile based on TSMC’s N7P (DUV) manufacturing process and also has an 8-core CPU, but with one ARM Cortex-A77 Prime core clocked at 2.84GHz, three Cortex-A77 cores clocked at 2.42GHz, and four ARM Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. This is paired with an Adreno 650 GPU.
In simple terms, while the Exynos 990 is based on a more advanced manufacturing process, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 uses more advanced cores. The Exynos 990’s competitive advantage in terms of the manufacturing process is negated by its larger die size though, meaning the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 variant of the Galaxy S20+ should be theoretically better, both in terms of performance and efficiency. That last bit should entail improved thermals and longer battery life. At this point, Mr X is scratching his head. On the one end, he’s sure his Galaxy S20+ offers the most high-end specs available in the Android world today, and on the other, he is thinking, wait, so you’re telling me there’s a country where I can get the same phone with even more powerful hardware. That’s not right, now, is it?
That’s how it’s been with Samsung and its Galaxy phones for a while now. So unless Samsung decides to flip the switch anytime soon, that’s how it’s going to be for eternity and beyond. There are disadvantages, surely, apart from the usual synthetic benchmark comparisons. You won’t get to see them in isolation so much, but the problem is, there are other phones in India today with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 and while Samsung may be the cream of the crop when it comes to offering the complete package, it is not the fastest Android phone that money can buy today.
But let’s just forget comparisons and talk about the Galaxy S20+’ performance like regular people for a second.
- Is it fast? Yes
- Is it smooth? Yes
- Does it heat up? Yes
- Does it last long? No
The last two bits are areas of concern, but Mr X, who’s been using the phone extensively for a while now says, they’re not deal breakers. The Galaxy S20+ has a tendency to heat up every now and then, but then again, every phone does. Even the iPhone. Mr X also carries an iPhone XR and that thing heats up like crazy sometimes. It’s just how phones are today. Too much power, too little space. Their real test lies in how fast they can cool down. The Galaxy S20+ is quick to cool down.
As for battery life, there are two aspects to consider here. The 4,500mAh battery inside the Galaxy S20+ is by no means small. It will last you a full day, but you must run the phone at 60Hz and forget that it even has a higher refresh rate. Battery life at 120Hz is disappointing, there’s no other way to put it. Mr X has been averaging 4-4.5 hours of screen on time in that case. At one point he called it the phone’s Achilles heel too. So you know, that’s something Samsung has to think about in the future generations.
Samsung seems to be playing it safe when it comes to fast charging. The Galaxy S20+ supports 25W fast charging, 15W fast wireless charging and 9W reverse charging, same as last year’s Galaxy Note 10+.
Samsung’s made a big deal about the Galaxy S20+ cameras (don’t even get me started about the Galaxy S20 Ultra). That’s one of the reasons why Mr X was invested in the phone in the first place. It’s like a camera powerhouse, this one, not Galaxy S20 Ultra-kind, but still a monster in its own right. Here’s the technical low-down:
— 12MP main sensor with Dual Pixel PDAF that sitting behind an f/1.8 aperture lens with OIS (no variable aperture like the Galaxy Note 10+/Galaxy S10+)
— 64MP telephoto (GW2) sensor with PDAF sitting behind an f/2.0 lens with OIS
— 12MP ultra wide-angle sensor sitting behind an f/2.2 lens
— Time-of-Flight sensor for 3D depth sensing
— 10MP front camera
Special emphasis has been given on clicking zoom photos, 8K and Super Steady videos, and Single Take, a feature that lets you shoot multiple stills and short video clips simultaneously using all of the Galaxy S20+’ rear cameras from different vantage points. That last bit is mostly a gimmick and you’re likely to forget about it after maybe trying it out a few times, though it’s fun to have around every once in a while especially if you have pets or kids and generally dynamic surroundings. 8K video is mostly a gimmick too, though it’s sometimes useful to pull high-quality photos out of your capture. Super Steady video is useful. As for zoom, not all zooms are created equal and the Galaxy S20+ is a classic example to prove that point. On paper, the Galaxy S20+ can shoot up to 30x zoom photos (up to 10x in low light/night mode), but that’s simply software overkill. It can do 3x hybrid zoom, which I admit seems to be a nice thing to have if you need it. Optically, the Galaxy S20+ can only go as far as 1.1x though, which isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff. If you want a groundbreaking zoom, Samsung has the Galaxy S20 Ultra for you. The Galaxy S20+ is barely beating around the bush if you were to make a comparison.
Enough about the technical details, let’s talk about the camera quality now. Mr X really likes the main camera on this one. More than the quality, he has been liking its consistency. Especially in good light. Every now and then, Samsung’s post processing algorithm does tend to pump up the colours (turning off Bixby scene optimizer helps fix that), but overall the photos shot using the Galaxy S20+ are generally warm and pleasing to the eyes with lots of detail and good dynamic range. Ultra wide-angle photos are nice and well-detailed too with minimal or no corner distortion or fish-eye effect, but the quality is surely not as impressive as the main camera. Low light photos are not best in class. More often than not, they’re soft and mushy because of Samsung’s highly aggressive noise reduction. Night mode does help get better, brighter results, but it’s no match for what Apple and Google offer at competing prices.
Samsung still has a long way to go when it comes to portraits or bokeh shots. There is improvement, but again, portraits shot using the Galaxy S20+ can’t hold a candle to an iPhone 11 Pro or even the Google Pixel 3.
The Galaxy S20+’ 10MP front camera can capture good-enough selfies with good detail and mostly spot-on colours in good light but low-light selfies (and portraits) could have been better.
The Galaxy S20+ may falter here and there when it comes to still photography, but it’s definitely one of the best Android phones around to shoot videos. Videos shot with the phone (including Super Steady ultra wide-angle) are sharp, have lots of detail, and offer excellent all-round stabilization — including impressive all-round audio.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ as an everyday phone:
- The Galaxy S20+ is available in only 8GB RAM/128GB storage configuration in India. The phone supports expandable storage of up to 1TB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot.
- Software inside the phone is Android 10-based One UI 2.1. Mr X likes how far Samsung has come when it comes to improving its software. It’s fast, smooth and feature rich to the T. Yes, there are still a lot of unwanted apps and features, and there’s still a good amount of learning curve for newcomers, but it’s not as burdensome as it used to once upon a time. Apart from the cartoonish icons you get on first booting up the system, the rest of Samsung’s One UI is beautiful and functional. Plus, it keeps intact all of the features that Google put inside Android 10. Samsung’s been fairly swift with updates too lately, and hopefully Android 11 isn’t very far either (once Google rolls it out that is). All in all, the intent is there and the results are there for us to see. One UI is the best piece of software that Samsung has ever made.
- The Galaxy S20+ comes with high-quality dual stereo speakers that can get really loud without any distortion at peak volume. Stereo separation is good too. Sadly, there’s no headphone jack.
- Phone calls made with the Galaxy S20+ are of excellent quality across the board. The dual-SIM phone supports dual 4G VoLTE. There’s no 5G option in India.
- The Galaxy S20+ is also IP68-certified for water and dust resistance.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S20+?
The Galaxy S20+ isn’t the most high-end Android flagship phone that Samsung makes today. That will be the Galaxy S20 Ultra. That said, Mr X believes the Galaxy S20+ might just be more value for money, making it an even better buy. The Galaxy S20+ is a more balanced product unless of course you’re into the big guns, literally and figuratively. The Galaxy has been the default Android flagship for a lot of people over the years due to a number of reasons. You always knew what to expect from it. Each year Samsung only built upon it further, slowly but steadily, to make it better. The Galaxy S20+ is a classic Samsung Galaxy that hits all the right notes, just like any other Galaxy phone in the past.
Remember how I mentioned being good at the basics is the need of the hour? Now let me, or rather Mr X, list those basics out for you and how the Galaxy S20+ fares at all those basics.
- Good design
- Good display
- Good performance
- Good software
- Good cameras
- Good speakers
- Good (enough) battery life
The Galaxy S20+ may have a lot of competition today, but, it’s sort of like cricket. Just because there’s a Tendulkar, or Sehwag, or Laxman, or Ganguly in the dressing room, it doesn’t mean there’s no place for a Dravid. And we all know, we most definitely need Dravid. Who else will we bank on, when the going gets tough? So says Mr X.