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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S20 review

An entry-level flagship with serious specs appeal

What is a hands on review?
Samsung Galaxy S20 hands on review
(Image: © Future)

For

  • Serious camera specs
  • Impressive screen
  • 5G connectivity

Against

  • More powerful siblings
  • Relatively expensive

Another year, another flagship Samsung smartphone range unveiled. In 2020, it will be the Galaxy S20, S20+ and the S20 Ultra vying for your attention, all promising new features, high-tech cameras and 5G connectivity.

We've been hands-on with the entry-level model, the Galaxy S20, to see how it stacks up against its predecessor and a couple of its key rivals.

Release date and price

The Galaxy S20 launch is slightly staggered depending on where you live, with some territories still to be confirmed. The official release date for the S20 in the United States is Friday 6th March, while those living in the UK will have to wait until the following Friday, 13th March, to get their hands on the new phone.

If you thought the S20 would come with a price hike compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy S10, you’d be right. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, given the new flagship offers 5G connectivity, a more advanced camera and a bigger 120Hz display.

So, you’re looking at a Galaxy S20 price of £899 ($999) for the 128GB 5G model. In the UK, a 4G version of the S20 is a little cheaper, at £799.

Design and build

Samsung Galaxy S20 design and build

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S20 is thinner than the S10 but a bit taller too, giving it a 20:9 aspect ratio. It might be the baby of the S20 family, but it still boasts a relatively large 6.1in screen. Some will be able to navigate their way around using just one hand, but for others, that might be a slight stretch. And that’s before you attempt to get to grips with the Galaxy S20+ (6.7in) and S20 Ultra (6.9in).

It does feel light, though, so it shouldn’t weigh you down too much. And, there’s no getting away from the fact that the S20’s slim chassis is still one of the sleekest, most attractive around. The aesthetic is also helped by the Edge design, which curves the screen around the frame to try and eliminate any bezel, and the notch-less screen.

The mirror finishes look great – there are Cosmic Grey, Cloud Blue and Cloud Pink options – but there’s no escaping the fact they’re a major fingerprint magnet. Like the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, the rear camera set-up protrudes from the glass rear panel, but if you have a case fitted it should all sit flush.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S20 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung likes to go big on cameras with its flagship phones, and the Galaxy S20 is no different. It’s not quite as high-tech as the snapper on its larger sibling, the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but you’re still getting a triple-lens set-up with 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide-angle and 64MP telephoto lenses.

There’s 10x digital zoom, improved quality in low lighting conditions and 8K video recording, which will come in handy for early adopters of 8K TV.

One of the more practical camera modes introduced for the S20 is Single Take, which uses the camera alongside AI to pick out, and create a portfolio of, all the best moments you capture in one shot. This should be useful when you’re scrolling through options to upload to Instagram.

Screen and specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 screen and specs

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S20 sports a 6.2in, Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display with a resolution of 3200 x 1440 pixels. It features a 120Hz refresh rate, which is good news for gamers, and is HDR10+ certified should you be streaming compatible video content.

This makes it slightly larger (by 0.1in) than the Galaxy S10, which itself has had a price drop following the launch of this newer model. It’s still bigger than the iPhone 11 Pro (5.8in) and not far off the standard iPhone 11 (6.1in).

The big news from an AV perspective is the headphone jack. Or rather, the absence of one. It’s a feature that the S10 managed to cling on to, but it’s finally had to go. So, you’ll need a pair of USB-C or wireless earbuds to go with them, although Samsung obviously hopes you’ll partner the S20 with its new Galaxy Buds Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S20 screen and specs

(Image credit: Future)

A new Music Share audio feature allows owners to set their Galaxy S20 as a music hub and source for other components (such as Bluetooth speakers and car stereos). It also opens itself up to additional users, so different people can take turns controlling playback.

AKG tuned the S10’s headphones and the same arrangement follows for the S20 for both the packaged two-way headphones and the phone's own internal speakers.

The Galaxy S20 comes with a 4000mAh battery pack, which is a decent increase on the 3400mAh offered by the S10. Samsung claims quicker wireless charging speeds and you’ll be pleased to know the phone comes with its own 25W fast charger.

Early verdict

So what do we think of the entry-level S20? Yes, the price has gone up compared to its predecessor, but on paper, you’re getting improved connectivity, a supercharged camera, a bigger battery and improved tech all-round. The S10 has dropped in price to make way for the new model, so that’s always an option too.

But, there is still a sizeable leap in tech and if you’re looking to upgrade from a two or three-year-old handset, this one is undoubtedly going to be on your shopping list.

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.