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Samsung’s Galaxy S line for 2020 appears to have undergone a significant reshuffle, apart from the fact that its name now matches the year. Taking cues from the iPhone 11 series, the base model no longer has a separate, visibly lower-end ‘e’ branding, but is simply called the Galaxy S20, nor is it a slouch anymore. The new entrant—the S20 Ultra—takes the experience a notch higher with (slightly) superior internals, sitting right above the Plus model. The ambitious trio of flagships universally commits itself to 5G connectivity in the US, ditching the 4G-only variants for good.
These Samsung flagships are more alike than ever, except, of course, with their physical measurements and the components directly affected by size. No matter which variant you go for, the overall experience won’t differ all that much. But a few finer points remain that can make or break the experience, depending on what you’re looking for in your next smartphone.
The footprint and that AMOLED screen
If their names didn’t already give it away, the Galaxy S20 will be the smallest of the lot, replacing last year’s S10e. The S20+ sits right in the middle, both in terms of footprint and display size, making it a great fit for most people. If you’re into large phones, then the S20 Ultra should please you with its massive screen, but do note that it’s also the heaviest at 220 grams. As for the color options, you can pick the Ultra only in gray and black while the Plus gets an additional blue option. The S20, on the flip side, gets a bit more colorful with a pink shade, in addition to blue and gray. Oh, and there is no headphone jack on any model, in case you're wondering.
For the 120Hz refresh rate, you'll have to dial down the resolution to 1080p, while the displays default to 60Hz at 1440p.
Possibly the most striking aspect of these phones is the AMOLED display that Samsung has slapped onto their fronts. All three are getting quad HD+ 20:9 screens that support HDR10+ and a 120Hz refresh rate, for which you'll have to dial down the resolution to 1080p, while they default to 60Hz at 1440p. They even have identical punch holes this time around, so the only aspect they differ on is size. The smallest phone gets a 6.2-inch screen (versus the S10e’s 5.8-inch) against 6.7 inches of the S20+, and 6.9 inches of the S20 Ultra. If it matters to you, the displays have also gone flat this year.
On the inside
What’s interesting here is the RAM capacity that Samsung has beefed up to 12GB across the board, even for the base model. On top of that, the S20 Ultra will also be available in a 16GB memory variant. In addition to RAM, the S20 also raises the bar with 128GB of standard storage, which, in line with Samsung’s tradition, can be expanded by up to 1TB by popping a microSD card in. You can also pick the two higher-end models—the S20 Plus and Ultra—with 512GB of storage with the same expandability option. As for the boring stuff, all three will come fueled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 in the US.
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The fourth camera
The standard Galaxy S20 matches the Plus’s setup spec-by-spec, except for the fourth camera sensor.
Samsung has made sure that the lowest-end Galaxy S20 doesn’t trail severely in the camera department; in fact, it matches the Plus’s setup spec-by-spec, except for the fourth camera. Both handsets have a pair of 12MP cameras (wide and ultra-wide) on the back along with a 64MP telephoto lens, while the Plus gets an additional Depth Vision sensor. This arrangement supports 3x hybrid and 30x software-enabled zoom.
The S20 Ultra keeps the ultra-wide sensor but swaps the primary wide-angle camera for a 108MP one along with a different 48MP telephoto lens. It touts 100x zoom, thanks to the increased resolution, along with 10x hybrid optic zoom. The Ultra flaunts a higher-res 40MP wide-angle camera on the front, against the S20 and S20 Plus’s 10MP sensors, which have the same wide-angle properties. You can check out the camera samples that Ryan took on the S20 Ultra.
5G or more like 5G-ish?
It’s fascinating seeing Samsung take the bold step of enabling its entire mainstream lineup with 5G, instead of launching a separate model as a novelty. Nevertheless, the three S20 phones aren’t on the same page when it comes to 5G connectivity. The standard S20 doesn’t support mmWave and only works on the sub-6GHz bands, while its two pricier peers support the entire spectrum.
T-Mobile has a massive 5G coverage based on the low to mid-band frequencies, while AT&T and Sprint also have some presence. Verizon may have not announced its plans for the sub-6GHz bands, but it'll get on board sooner than later. With the S20, you won’t be missing out on a lot, given all the coverage-related drawbacks that the mmWave frequencies come with. For those wondering, 4G LTE will continue to work as usual on all these handsets.
The boss batteries
Samsung thankfully was generous this time around, especially with the entry-level Galaxy S20.
Much like their display sizes, the battery capacities also grow with the phones’ dimensions, and Samsung thankfully was generous this time around, especially with the entry-level Galaxy S20. It gets a respectable 4,000mAh battery with the Plus adding another 500mAh. The battery size of the S20 Ultra is 5,000mAh—the largest on a Samsung flagship yet. While these capacities show some serious improvements from last year, you must factor in the higher refresh rate, even though it works at 1080p by default to save power. The Ultra supports 45W charging, though all models will ship with a 25W brick, aside from supporting faster wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare.
The four-figure price
Coming to the big question: How much will they cost? If you look at last year’s S10 5G, which cost $1,300, this year’s entry price is a little lower. The Galaxy S20 will come in at $1,000 with the Plus model jumping to $1,200 and the Ultra to $1,400. In comparison, the standard Galaxy S10 was priced at $900, while the S10e cost even lower at just $750. At these prices, Samsung is matching the iPhone 11 Pro series, which also starts at $1,000, but for a 64GB storage variant.
Which one is right for you?
Unlike last year, the choice seemed clear in the S20 series’s case after our brief interaction with the devices. The entry-level Galaxy S20 comes out as a winner with no obvious drawbacks, at least on paper, except if you wouldn’t be okay without mmWave 5G for the next couple of years. It has a sound battery size with excellent internals and a camera setup to match. At 6.2 inches, the display is a tad smaller than modern smartphones, but it hits the spot for single-handed usage while still not being too tiny.
Spending another $200 on the S20 Plus can be justified if you absolutely want those higher-band frequencies or could use the additional 500mAh battery capacity to get through the day comfortably. Even the 512GB storage can draw you if you must keep an offline copy of all your photos and videos. Finally, the S20 Ultra is for, well, ultras who just can’t get their eyes off that 16GB RAM. In addition, you’ll be treated with a bigger battery, more display estate, and higher-res cameras, but for a price that goes over $1,400.