Samsung Galaxy S20+ Review: The standard bearer for flagship Android
Samsung’s market position isn’t as good as it was in the early days of Android. Relatively poor sales of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Samsung Galaxy S10 series has led to the company facing serious competition at all price segments of the smartphone market. The company’s dominant first-place advantage is no longer so dominant. The Samsung Galaxy S7 remains the company’s best-selling Galaxy S series flagship. However, over the course of 2019, Samsung indirectly benefited from the crippling of Huawei’s international smartphone business due to political developments, a saga that still continues to the present day. In 2020, the company is now the presumed default choice in the premium Android smartphone market, as the rest of the competition is still some way behind in terms of market share, mind share, and global availability of devices.
Can the company extend its lead with the new Samsung Galaxy S20 series?
Samsung has certainly made a lot of effort throughout the Galaxy S series. This year, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung’s top-end flagship, but with an equally stratospheric price tag to match. It represents a lot of firsts for Samsung. The Galaxy S20+ and the regular Galaxy S20, on the other hand, function as the successors of last year’s Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10 respectively. The small Galaxy S10e (review) didn’t get a direct price successor this year, although the Galaxy S10 Lite (review) takes up a similar “affordable flagship” role. Today, we are examining the middle option, the Galaxy S20+.
The Galaxy S20+ doesn’t have the 108MP primary camera with nona binning, and it also skips out on the famed 48MP periscope telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom. However, the rest of its specifications are similar to the Galaxy S20 Ultra with the exceptions of the display size and battery capacity. In most markets, it’s also a lot cheaper. In India, for example, the price difference is a significant ₹19,000 ($253), which has the effect of making the Galaxy S20+, and not the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the standard-bearer for mainstream flagship Android phones.
Can the Galaxy S20+ live up to its hefty responsibilities? Does it make sense to spend double the amount of money relative to the variety of affordable flagships in the market? What are the differences in performance between the Exynos and Snapdragon variants this year? The Galaxy S20+ certainly has a lot to prove, so let’s see how it does.
|Specification||Samsung Galaxy S20+|
|Dimensions + Weight|
|Security||Ultrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor|
|Software Version||Android 10 with One UI 2.1|
|Colors||Cosmic Grey, Cosmic Black, Cloud Blue|
|Starting Price||U.S.: $1,199 / India: ₹73,999|
About this review: Samsung India sent me a review unit of the Indian 4G 8GB RAM/128GB storage variant of the Galaxy S20+ (SM-G985F). All opinions in this review are my own. This review has been published after a month of usage. Max Weinbach contributed the benchmarks for the Snapdragon 865 variant of the U.S. Galaxy S20+.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Design
The design of the Samsung Galaxy S20+ is one of the better flagship phone designs on the market. At the same time, there are several steps that could have been taken to improve it even further.
Starting off with the build quality, the Galaxy S20+ has a standard metal-and-glass sandwich design. It has an aluminum frame and a glass back with a glossy finish. The aluminum frame is notably thinner than most phones on the market, with curved glass extending from the front and back. It’s similar to the Galaxy S10 5G in this regard, and this is because the 5G variant of the Galaxy S20+ needs to have a thin frame to enable mmWave 5G radio frequencies, which are blocked by metal and allowed through glass. The 4G variant of the phone doesn’t have the same constraints as it doesn’t support either mmWave or sub-6GHz 5G, but both variants have the same design. This does mean the phone is less durable than competing phones with glass backs. There is very little aluminum to be found here, which increases the chances of catastrophic breakage upon a drop. Unfortunately, it is what it is.
The glossy feel of the glass back is also an arguable negative. Rival vendors such as OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, and others have experimented or in some cases fully gone with matte glass finishes, which feel much more premium in the hand as they approximate the cold feel of aluminum. A matte finish also leads to less fingerprints. Samsung, on the other hand, has stubbornly stuck with glossy finishes on its flagship phones. This means the Galaxy S20+ doesn’t feel noticeably different in the hand (with respect to feel) than phones costing one fifth its price. It would be good to see the company going with matte glass in the future.
The Galaxy S20+ has a clean front design. The screen-to-body ratio is an impressive 90.5%, which is as good as it gets for phones that don’t have mechanical popup front cameras. The bezels are noticeably thinner than those of the Galaxy S10+, and are about the same as that of the Galaxy Note 10+ (review). The phone has a physical earpiece on the top frame, enabling stereo speakers. The hole punch 10MP front camera is placed at the center near the top of the camera. This means its aesthetics are much nicer than the Galaxy S10+’s pill-style dual front camera cutout, or even the Galaxy S10e’s right-placed hole-punch front camera. It’s also better for usability as the status bar icons don’t get pushed to the side.
The volume buttons and the side key (used for Bixby by default, but you change it to have it behave like a power button) are both placed on the right side. The actuation force and the stiffness of the buttons are pretty good, and their placement is also fine. There is nothing on the left side. The top contains the hybrid dual nano-SIM tray (dual nano-SIM or nano-SIM + microSD) and a microphone. The bottom contains another microphone, the USB Type-C (USB 3.2) port, and the bottom speaker grille. Unfortunately, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack in the Galaxy S20 series.
The Galaxy S20+ has a curved display, but the curvature of the display is much less pronounced than it was in previous generations. This means it’s less distracting, and it also provides more visible screen estate. The phone also has rounded corners, greatly improving in-hand feel. On the back, we have a rectangular camera enclosure at the top left that contains the quad cameras (12MP + 12MP + 64MP + ToF sensor), along with an LED flash. The sensors are placed asymmetrically inside the enclosure, which is a minor design negative. Then again, it looks less distracting than the lopsided camera arrangement of the standard Galaxy S20 and the humongous “100x Space Zoom” camera enclosure on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. There is nothing else on the back apart from the standard Samsung logo.
The Galaxy S20+ comes in three colors in most regions: Cosmic Grey, Cosmic Black, and Cloud Blue. The colors are pretty serious, even for the Cloud Blue color. They are a big departure from the Galaxy S10’s fun prism colors. All three colors are understated, which means they won’t stand out. As I’ve mentioned before, this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on consumers’ choices. I personally was a fan of the Galaxy S10e’s Prism White color finish, which alternated between light blue and white depending on ambient lighting. None of the Galaxy S20’s colors have a Prism effect. I got the Cosmic Grey variant for review, and while I think the color is a refreshing change in a sea of flashy phones, it can also look a bit boring for many users. Samsung has slightly missed the balance here. Other regions such as Best Buy in the U.S. and South Korea get more vibrant colors such as Aura Blue, but they are regionally limited. Photos of the Aura Blue variant can be seen below, thanks to Max.
The ergonomics of the Galaxy S20+ are surprisingly great. They are better than the Galaxy Note 10 Lite (review) because of the phone’s smaller volume. The 186 grams weight and 7.8 mm thickness go a long way towards making the phone feel balanced in the hand. The weight distribution is great, and although the phone is too tall to be used with a single hand, it can be used for long periods without your hands getting tired. The curved display, the rounded corners, and the curved back are all positives here, and the overall in-hand feel of the phone is excellent.
The curved display, the rounded corners, and the curved back are all positives here, and the overall in-hand feel of the phone is excellent.
The box package of the Galaxy S20+ contains a 25W USB C-PD 3.0 “Super Fast Charger” with PPS and PDO, a USB Type-C to Type-C cable, USB Type-C earphones tuned by AKG, and a transparent plastic case. It’s disappointing to see Samsung skipping on providing a Type-C to Type-A cable even for such an expensive phone. The company deserves credit for bundling earphones at a time when most vendors opt not to bundle them. However, there is no 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter in the box, just like the Galaxy Note 10+. Again, it wouldn’t cost Samsung a lot to bundle these two items in the box for users’ convenience.
Overall, the Galaxy S20+’s design is great, but it doesn’t push the boundaries forward in a major way. A matte glass finish would have gone a long way towards making the device feel more premium in the hand, even while the fit and finish still remain objectively excellent. IP68 certified water resistance is a plus point that most affordable flagships don’t have, and Samsung has had this covered for four years now. The aesthetics of the centered hole-punch camera are a big improvement over the last generation, the thin bezels prove useful for reducing device volume, and the ergonomics are, subjectively speaking, unparalleled across the premium smartphone market.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Display
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ has a 6.7-inch Quad HD+ (3200×1440) Dynamic AMOLED display with 20:9 aspect ratio and 525 PPI. It has an optional 120Hz refresh rate (HFR), which can only be enabled at Full HD+ (2400×1080) resolution. Samsung is reportedly working on an update to enable 120Hz at Quad HD+, but right now, users can have 120Hz at Full HD+ or 60Hz at Quad HD+. The OPPO Find X2 series does have 120Hz at Quad HD+, so Samsung is behind here. The phone ships with 60Hz refresh rate at Full HD+ resolution out of the box. The display’s dimensions are 155 mm x 70 mm. A plastic removable screen protector is factory-applied on the display.
The Dynamic AMOLED nomenclature means the display supports HDR10+. It also means the display is an OLED that reduces the amount of blue light within the harmful range to reduce eye fatigue. This is achieved by shifting the wavelength of the blue OLED a little further up the visible spectrum. This hardware characteristic was first a part of the Galaxy S10/Galaxy Note 10 displays, and it has now made its way to the display of the Galaxy S20.
In terms of resolution, Samsung is conservatively shipping the display with Full HD+ resolution out of the box, just like it has been doing since the Samsung Galaxy S8. This is sub-optimal in terms of image sharpness, even though it’s acceptable. There is a visible difference in clarity when you enable WQHD+ resolution. However, that doesn’t work with the 120Hz refresh rate. Right now, the general consensus is that 120Hz at Full HD+ is a better trade-off than 60Hz QHD+. It’s disingenuous to say that the Galaxy S20+ has a 120Hz QHD+ display; as both features can’t be activated at the same time. Enabling 120Hz at QHD+ is physically impossible for now.
I’ll leave the full display analysis to Dylan, but my impressions of the Galaxy S20’s brightness are great. Again, manual brightness is set to a conservative maximum of 350-400 nits. High Brightness Mode (HBM) in sunlight can take the display to ~800 nits with auto-brightness enabled, which means sunlight legibility is excellent. You won’t have an issue with viewing content even in direct sunlight. The viewing angles are also excellent, with no rainbow out interference effect and minimal angular color shift at angle changes. The contrast is theoretically infinite.
In terms of color accuracy, the Galaxy S20+ leaves me with a good impression. The display ships with Natural color mode enabled out of the box, with Vivid mode being available as an option. The Natural mode is still calibrated too warm, which remains the one weak point. Color accuracy with respect to the sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamuts is perceptibly very good, and automatic color management support means WCG gamut photos are supported in Google Photos as well as Samsung Gallery. The remaining issues are minor. In terms of black clipping, Samsung has finally improved the display’s ability to distinguish between different shades of black. It’s still not on par with the iPhone, but the gap is getting closer.
Power efficiency-wise, there are major issues with the optional 120Hz refresh rate of the phone’s display. As AnandTech points out, it’s just not an efficient implementation as the battery life impact with the 120Hz mode is very significant. The display doesn’t seemingly have a true implementation of variable refresh rate (VRR); the 120Hz mode utilizes 120Hz refresh rate all the time. The panel itself supports four refresh rates: 48Hz, 60Hz, 96Hz, and 120Hz. Samsung wisely made 60Hz mode the default, but as it currently is, 120Hz comes with a big power cost. The company is employing a single MIPI interface, but the problems appear to be deeper. Users will lose at least one hour of screen-on time if they keep 120Hz mode enabled, according to the general consensus and my experience as well.
Overall, the Galaxy S20+’s display is as good as it gets in the premium Android smartphone market.
Overall, the Galaxy S20+’s display is as good as it gets in the premium Android smartphone market. Samsung’s implementation of high refresh rate leaves a lot to be desired so far, but it’s possible that the power efficiency can be improved with future updates. In terms of display quality, the gap between Samsung and its competitors is slowly closing, which means that phones with great displays can be bought for cheaper prices.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Performance
The Samsung Galaxy S20 series is powered by Samsung System LSI’s Exynos 990 SoC in most international markets, while the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 is restricted for the U.S./Canada/South Korea/China/Latin America variants of the phones. The Indian variants feature the Exynos 990 SoC, as expected.
For more information about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, check out our launch article as well as our benchmarks comparison between the Snapdragon 855 and the HiSilicon Kirin 990. We have yet to analyze its performance on a commercial phone, so the Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20+ will be our first opportunity to see how the SoC behaves in the real world.
The Exynos 990, on the other hand, is expected to be behind the Snapdragon 865 from the very beginning. Since the past few years, the Exynos SoCs has been unable to compete with the competing Snapdragon SoCs of a generation. The gap was particularly severe in 2018’s Exynos 9810, which was a long way off the performance of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. Last year’s Exynos 9820 was a much-improved effort, but it still couldn’t match the competing Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. The Exynos 9825, featured in the Galaxy Note 10, was nothing but a 7nm shrink of the Exynos 9820, as it had the same CPU and GPU performance. To make matters worse, Samsung’s custom core effort, which was started with 2016’s Exynos M1-powered Exynos 8890, has effectively come to an end. 290 employees have left Samsung’s Austin Research Center (SARC), and the CPU project there has ended. The team was responsible for developing Samsung’s fully custom cores, starting with the Exynos M1 (Mongoose) in the Exynos 8890 and ending all the way to the Exynos M5 in the Exynos 990.
Next year, Samsung will, therefore, have to switch to ARM’s stock cores, much like Qualcomm and HiSilicon. Its custom core strategy didn’t work out as the core designs were inferior both in terms of performance and efficiency compared to ARM’s solutions. The Exynos 990’s successor is expected to be very similar to Qualcomm’s next flagship Snapdragon SoC in terms of CPU performance. However, the current Exynos 990 isn’t affected. That’s because the Exynos M5 CPU design had already been finished by the time the custom core project finished. For the foreseeable future, it will be the last Exynos SoC to feature fully custom CPU cores.
The Exynos 990 is manufactured on Samsung’s 7nm LPP process, using EUV. Its process node is theoretically more advanced than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, which is fabricated on TSMC’s N7P (DUV) process. (The only SoC to be manufactured on TSMC’s 7nm N7+ EUV process is the HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G.) However, the die size of the Exynos is still bigger as the Exynos M5 cores are larger than the ARM Cortex-A77 cores in the Snapdragon 865.
In terms of connectivity, the Exynos 990 is paired with Samsung’s 5G-capable Exynos 5G Modem 5123. The 4G variants of the phones have the same modem as the 5G variants, but they lack the 5G RF system, which is required to make 5G work.
The Exynos 990 features two Exynos M5 “big” cores clocked at 2.7GHz, two ARM Cortex-A76 “middle” cores clocked at 2.5GHz, and four ARM Cortex-A55 “little” cores clocked at 2GHz. In comparison, the Snapdragon 865 has one ARM Cortex-A77 Prime core clocked at 2.84GHz, three Cortex-A77 Performance cores clocked at 2.42GHz, and four ARM Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.8GHz.
The middle cores of the Exynos 990 are at an obvious performance disadvantage compared to the Snapdragon 865’s middle cores, which are based on the newer ARM Cortex-A77 architecture. The little cores are clocked higher on the Exynos, while the big cores are completely different as Qualcomm uses ARM’s A77 cores while the custom Exynos M5 is the successor of the Exynos M4 (Cheetah) used in the Exynos 9820 and the Exynos 9825.
The Exynos 990 features ARM’s new Valhall-based Mali-G77MP11 GPU, and it’s the first time we are getting to try that out. The GPU competes with Qualcomm’s Adreno 650 GPU in the Snapdragon 865, and again, it’s expected to be at a disadvantage by default.
In terms of synthetic CPU performance, the Exynos 990 doesn’t compete well with the Snapdragon 865. Yes, it’s a bit faster than the older Snapdragon 855, but that also comes with an enormous efficiency cost. Relative to the Snapdragon 865, the Exynos 990’s Exynos M5 core have a 100% power efficiency deficit versus the Snapdragon 865’s A77 top core, according to AnandTech. Even the efficiency of the middle A76 cores is far behind the A77 middle cores of the Snapdragon 865. The Exynos 990 is just not an efficient SoC, even against the Snapdragon 855.
In Geekbench 5’s single-core score, the Exynos 990 variant of the Galaxy S20+ is virtually tied or on average is about 30 points better than the Snapdragon variant of the phone. It’s a different story in multi-core scores, though, where the Snapdragon variant scores, on average, about 300 points more than the Exynos variant. As we have explained before, Samsung keeps chasing high single-core scores on Geekbench to the detriment of real-world benchmarks, and it leads to a misleading picture of the SoC’s performance. So the Exynos 990’s Exynos M5 core may be on par with the ARM Cortex-A77 in the Snapdragon 865 in Geekbench, but SPEC tells a more detailed picture and it’s apparent that the ARM Cortex-A77 is a bit faster in single-core, which in turn leads to better multi-core performance.
PCMark Work 2.0 is more or less the only benchmark we have for testing a simulation of real-world performance as it attempts to test common tasks such as web browsing, writing, photo editing, and more. There are four possible ways to test the Galaxy S20+ here. Samsung provides a High-Performance mode in the Power Mode settings, which runs at a higher system speed by default. So you can either have the normal Optimized mode at 60Hz; High-Performance mode at 60Hz; Optimized mode at 120Hz; and High-Performance mode at 120Hz.
The disparity in the overall score is the most apparent when comparing Optimized mode at 60Hz versus High-Performance mode at 120Hz. The difference in the score is 17% (10,319 vs. 12,338). Enabling 120Hz mode makes a big boost to the Web Browsing 2.0 score even if you don’t enable High-Performance mode.
The chart shows the third combination, where I am running the Galaxy S20+ at 120Hz mode with Optimized power mode. Here, the Exynos 990 variant of the Galaxy S20+ provides a marked improvement over its predecessors and is the top scorer. The overall score (a geometric mean of all sub-scores) is substantially higher than the Exynos 9820 variant of the Galaxy S10e. It’s only 2% less the Snapdragon 865 variant’s score, which is very good to see.
In terms of the individual score breakdown, the Exynos 990 variant of the phone scores the highest in the Web Browsing 2.0 (better than the Snapdragon 865), Video Editing (slightly lower than the Snapdragon 865), and Photo Editing 2.0 (higher than the Snapdragon 865) scores. In the Writing 2.0 test, the phone is beaten both by the Snapdragon 865 variant as well as some Snapdragon 855 phones, but the score is still high. The Photo Editing 2.0 score is particularly remarkable as it’s a lot higher than the Exynos Galaxy S10e’s score – it’s chart-topping. The score helps the Exynos 990 score on par with the Snapdragon 865 in the overall score. In the Data Manipulation score, the Exynos 990 is below the Snapdragon 865.
We turn towards Speedometer 2.0 to test web performance. The Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20+ is at the top here, while the Exynos 990, as expected, is quite a bit behind. The score is only on par with most Snapdragon 855 phones, which are a generation older. Once again, this makes it clear that head-to-head, the Exynos comes off worst.
The AndroBench results show some impressive storage performance figures. The Galaxy S20+ still has UFS 3.0 storage, and not the newer UFS 3.1 NAND specification, which is used in the iQOO 3 (first impressions). Even so, it’s able to post the highest sequential read and sequential write figures that we have seen yet. The random read and random write numbers are nothing to scoff at, either. Respective to the Galaxy Note 10+, the Exynos Galaxy S20+ has faster NAND as all the performance figures are higher.
The Mali-G77MP11 GPU of the Exynos 990 is the first to be based on ARM’s new Valhall architecture. At the time of the Exynos 990’s announcement in October, Samsung was quite conservative about the GPU’s performance, saying that it would have a 20% improvement in performance or power efficiency over its predecessor. As it turns out, the company estimated the GPU’s gains in terms of peak performance but was truthful about them in terms of sustained performance. These are two different aspects. For short bursts, the Mali-G77 does manage to improve against its predecessor; but in terms of sustained performance, the differences aren’t big. Even after ARM’s efforts, the company’s best GPU still can’t compete with the Adreno 650 in the Snapdragon 865. It does manage to put up a fight against the Snapdragon 855 only with respect to peak performance, but once again, that shouldn’t be the point of comparison.
In 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme, the graphics score of the Exynos 990 variant of the Galaxy S20+ is higher than the Mali-G76MP12-powered Exynos Galaxy S10e, both for OpenGL ES 3.1 and Vulkan. The scores are lower than the Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20+, as can be seen in the benchmark charts. Once again, the physics scores (that measures CPU, not GPU performance) are lower than the competition – both of the Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 855 variety. The overall score of the Exynos 990 Galaxy S20+ is lower than the Adreno 650-powered Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20+ by 10% in OpenGL ES 3.1 and by 25% in Vulkan.
Once again, buyers of the Exynos variant of the Galaxy S20 phones will get objectively worse GPU performance than buyers of the Snapdragon variant.
This means that once again, buyers of the Exynos variant of the Galaxy S20 phones will get objectively worse GPU performance than buyers of the Snapdragon variant. It’s not fair, but it has been the case at least since 2018.
UI performance, RAM management, and unlocking speed
The UI performance on the Exynos Galaxy S20+ is a tale of two different experiences. In the default 60Hz display refresh rate, the performance is good. It’s the best performance ever for any Samsung flagship in terms of app launch times and device smoothness, but it’s not a generation faster than 2019 flagships, especially Snapdragon 855 phones. In fact, phones with 90Hz refresh rate such as the OnePlus 7 Pro feel smoother than the Galaxy S20+ out of the box, because their high refresh rate is enabled out of the box, while the Galaxy S20+ opts to go with the standard 60Hz. There is no perceptible stutter as such across the user interface, but the UI animations in One UI don’t feel as quick as those on OxygenOS. The motion smoothness is still good for those users who haven’t tried out high refresh rate displays so far or for those who simply don’t care about such an aspect.
Enabling 120Hz mode makes a huge difference, though. I am confident in saying that with 120Hz mode enabled, the Exynos Galaxy S20+ is probably the fastest, smoothest smartphone that I have ever used. There are no stutters, and animations are so smooth that they glide across the display. This is a big deal considering how smooth phones already were in 2019. The Galaxy S20+ beats even the OnePlus 7 Pro (review) in terms of smoothness with 120Hz refresh rate. Granted, I haven’t used phones like the OPPO Find X2 Pro or the Xiaomi Mi 10 so far, and it’s possible that they are smoother or just as smooth as the Galaxy S20+. The Galaxy S20+ sets a high bar to cross, though.
With 120Hz mode enabled, the Exynos Galaxy S20+ is probably the fastest, smoothest smartphone that I have ever used. It sets a high bar to cross.
If you care about device smoothness, then you have to enable 120Hz. Yes, it comes with a significant cost in battery life. Yes, not having a true variable refresh rate is sub-optimal. Even so, the improvements in overall device responsiveness are incredible.
The 4G variant of the Galaxy S20+ has 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM, while the 5G variant has 12GB. I can’t help but think that this was a needless cost-cutting measure. Android needs plenty of RAM to keep apps in memory, and even then, apps can get kicked out of memory and reloaded at random instances. 12GB of RAM, therefore, could have come in useful. As it is, 8GB of RAM is still acceptable even for a flagship, but I do experience the usual cut-off point in Chrome browsing sessions where multiple tabs have to reload. The LPDDR5 specification is more of a future-proofing aspect over the older LPDDR4X standard because while it does bring improvements in memory bandwidth and power efficiency, the real-life differences are going to be impossible to spot as of now.
The Galaxy S20+ has Qualcomm’s ultrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor, which is called the 3D Sonic Sensor. This is still Qualcomm’s first-generation sensor and not the newer, second-generation sensor (3D Sonic Max), which was announced in December. The newer sensor had a 17 times larger area (20 mm x 30 mm vs. 4 mm x 9 mm for the first-generation sensor) with the same speed, and it even allowed two fingers to be enrolled at once. However, it didn’t end up in the Galaxy S20 series. Maybe it simply couldn’t be ready in time. Whatever may be the case, the current unlocking experience on the Galaxy S20+ is disappointing. The sensor requires less pressure than an optical under-display fingerprint sensor, which is a major plus point – a light tap can do the job if the finger has been enrolled correctly (and if the system feels like working). Other plus points include its always-on nature, and it’s theoretically more secure than an optical sensor as well (though that does not always translate correctly into practical life).
On the other hand, its biggest negative is that it simply isn’t as reliable and accurate as the latest optical sensors. It takes less than a second to unlock, but there can still be plenty of failed attempts as the accuracy rate is only about 75-80%. The sensors on the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom (review), on the other hand, have approximately 95% accuracy, which makes them much better. Samsung is the only vendor going with Qualcomm’s ultrasonic sensors, and I have to wonder if it’s worth it. A 3D facial recognition system would have come in handy, too, but it would have necessitated a wide notch or pill-style display cutout (the new Huawei P40 Pro shows the way forward for secure 3D face unlock). Ultimately, going with one of the newest optical sensors from Goodix would have been a better decision for Samsung, as the ultrasonic sensor can still be frustrating to use at times.
The thermals of the Exynos Galaxy S20+ are good in a vacuum, but the phone is still prone to heating up more than Snapdragon 855 flagships such as the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom. Heat isn’t an issue on most occasions, to be fair, and the Galaxy S20’s thermal solution is up to scratch when it comes to sustained CPU performance. I tested the CPU throttling using CPU Throttling Test’s benchmark, and the CPU was throttled to 85% of its full capacity after a 15-minute test, which is a fairly good result. Thankfully, the throttling of the Galaxy S20+ is not even perceptible in real-world use – although the phone does get hot after extensively using the camera and when doing heavy multitasking.
The 120Hz mode objectively and subjectively makes it one of the fastest, smoothest Android flagships on the market.
Overall, the Exynos Galaxy S20+ has a much-improved real-world performance. It heats up less than the Exynos Galaxy S10e, and it doesn’t have any perceptible stutters, even in 60Hz mode. The 120Hz mode objectively and subjectively makes it one of the fastest, smoothest Android flagships on the market. However, negative points such as the unreliability of the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor drag down the overall score here.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Camera Image Samples
We will be taking a closer look at the Galaxy S20+’s camera in a follow-up review article. Meanwhile, here are some samples from our unit. Note that these samples were taken prior to the rollout of the camera-focused update (ATCH), i.e. on the ATBM build.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Audio
The Samsung Galaxy S20 series opt to skip out on the 3.5mm headphone jack. I have analyzed the reason for this removal in a separate article. In short, it’s not a good decision for consumer choice and convenience. The market may, by and large, appear to have accepted flagship phones with no 3.5mm headphone jacks, but that doesn’t mean headphone jacks are not appreciated by the majority of flagship phone buyers. In any case, the whole situation is just profoundly disappointing as few major vendors sell flagship phones with headphone jacks anymore. Sony did reverse its position this year with the Sony Xperia 1 II, though, and it’s a path that I wish Samsung would follow in the future.
The Galaxy S20+ thankfully does support audio accessory mode for its USB Type-C port, letting the phone accept both active and passive adapters. This means the phone still has a DAC, unlike the Google Pixel which needs purely active adapters. Subjectively, wired USB Type-C audio from Samsung’s AKG-tuned earphones was far too quiet for me. I have found this to be the case with Samsung’s older AKG-tuned 3.5mm earbuds as well, so users should just buy their own wired or wireless earphones. I didn’t have the opportunity to try out the Galaxy Buds+ with the phone.
Speaker quality on the Galaxy S20+, on the other hand, is as good as ever. Samsung has got this covered since the Galaxy S10, and there are no unpleasant surprises to be found here. The stereo speakers provide balanced sound without audible distortion, and volume levels are also acceptably high.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Software
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is powered by One UI 2.1 on top of Android 10. To check out our thoughts about One UI, read our initial One UI review and the software section of our Galaxy S10e review. To know more about One UI 2.0-specific features, check out the software section of our Galaxy S10 Lite review.
The list of new features that One UI 2.1 brings is quite a big one. It’s now being rolled out as an update for the Galaxy S10 series as well as the Galaxy Note 10 series. The new features include Quick Share, which is Samsung’s competitor to Apple’s AirDrop. Other features include a better stock keyboard with multilingual transmission and text undo/redo support, Music Share, Pro Video in the camera app, and Single Take, which is a gimmicky feature. Similar images are now grouped together in the Samsung Gallery app, Google Duo integration is present in the dialer and Samsung Messages app, a dedicated power button is present in the notifications menu (as the side key is configured for Bixby by default), and users can record time-lapse videos at night. Also, Android 10 gestures will finally work in third-party launchers in the upcoming One UI 2.5 update.
One UI is one of the most feature-rich and well-implemented custom user interfaces.
Holistically, One UI is one of the most feature-rich and well-implemented custom user interfaces. Its focus on one-handed usability and pleasing typography continues to be excellent even a year after its introduction.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ – Battery Life and Charging
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is powered by a 4,500mAh (typical) / 4,370mAh (minimum) battery. That’s a big battery in terms of capacity, but equally, it should be kept in mind that the Exynos 990’s Exynos M5 cores have a 100% power efficiency deficit against the Snapdragon 865’s ARM Cortex-A77 cores. The A76 middle cores also have much inferior power efficiency compared to the Snapdragon 865’s A77 middle cores. Then, we have Samsung’s optional 120Hz implementation, which is in a nascent stage and which still needs work. It’s not a recipe for excellent battery life, and unfortunately, this is one area where the Galaxy S20+ fails to perform as well as it should as a flagship.
In the default 60Hz mode, the Galaxy S20+ generally lasts for a full day of use in my experience. Screen-on time can range from 5.5 hours to 6 hours, which isn’t an excellent showing for a 4,500mAh battery capacity. This may again point to the Exynos 990’s inefficiency. When we enable 120Hz, battery life drops drastically. At that point, it’s fair to say that the 4,500mAh battery capacity behaves like a 3,300mAh battery in terms of life. The drain can be observed in real-time, to the point where screen-on time figures drop to around 4.5-5 hours. You will struggle to get the phone to last more than 24 hours on a single charge with 4-5 hours of use.
In relative comparison, phones like the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom and the Huawei P30 Pro offer much, much better battery life. The battery life of the OnePlus 7 Pro with 90Hz mode and QHD+ resolution is comparable. With a generation-newer chip, the Galaxy S20+ offers disappointing battery life in 120Hz mode. The battery life at 120Hz is worse than the Galaxy Note 10 Lite’s battery life, and that particular phone is powered by the inefficient, two-year-old Exynos 9810 SoC. Even the idle drain on the Galaxy S20+ is not as good as it should be, as it’s inferior to vendors such as OPPO and OnePlus. It’s fair to say that Samsung has a problem here, and the company must improve the phone’s battery life in future updates.
The Galaxy S20+ supports 25W Super Fast Charging using the USB-C PD 3.0 with PPS and PDO support. Third-party super-fast charging is still restricted as the requirements are extremely specific. If you don’t use a Super Fast Charger, the fast charging on the phone is limited to 15W and not 18W. Unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Galaxy Note 10+, the Galaxy S20+ doesn’t support 45W charging. This doesn’t make a substantial difference in terms of charging time, as those phones will stop drawing 45W of power once they have reached 30% battery. It takes about an hour for the Galaxy S20+ to be charged from 20% to 100%. The charging time is acceptable in itself. Proprietary charging standards such as OPPO’s SuperVOOC 2.0 (the basis for Realme’s Dart Charging) are significantly faster at the cost of charger fragmentation.
The phone supports Samsung’s Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 at 15W, and again, this speed is falling behind the proprietary fast wireless charging technologies that other vendors use, which can go up to 30W. Wireless PowerShare (reverse wireless charging) is also supported for charging wireless earphones or smartwatches, and it supports 9W of power.
Odds and Ends
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ has good cellular signal reception and call quality, as expected. It supports dual VoLTE. VoWiFi is supported for Jio and Airtel users in India. The phone also supports dual-frequency GNSS for better location tracking, making it the first Samsung flagship to have this feature.
The phone’s vibration motor is one of its particular highlights. This is the first Samsung phone that offers comparable haptics and a comparable typing experience to phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom. It’s significantly better than the Galaxy S10e, but it’s still not best-in-class as the Reno 10x Zoom offers a slightly better vibration experience.
It’s a bad time to buy a phone right now, let alone an expensive flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S20+. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a complete lockdown in India and many other countries across the world, and buying a new smartphone is not an essential service. As e-commerce platforms are suspended, so are phone sales. Aspiring buyers of the Galaxy S20 will have to wait at least a few weeks to buy it.
It’s the reason why we are separating our camera review from this review. The cameras are the major selling point of the Galaxy S20+. I did my camera testing with the prior ATBM update, but Samsung then shipped a new camera firmware with “improved camera performance” as part of the ATCH update. Due to the lockdown, we will not be able to re-test the camera image quality on the ATCH update until it ends. For our analysis of the phone’s image quality prior to the ATCH update, stay tuned for our upcoming camera review.
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is an excellent phone. In terms of mind share, it may be overshadowed by the top-end Galaxy S20 Ultra, but that would be unfair for it. That’s because it can stand on its own right. Its cameras have different strengths. The phone offers excellent display quality, good real-world performance, class-leading device smoothness with the optional 120Hz mode, a generally great set of cameras with excellent image quality in most situations, a feature-rich user interface, and pleasing design with great ergonomics. It does have some notable negatives such as less than stellar battery life, issues with the power impact of the 120Hz mode, the efficiency disparity of the Exynos 990 SoC, and an (often) finicky ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. Overall, it’s clear to see that for flagship phone buyers, its list of positives outweighs its list of negatives.
The Galaxy S20+ costs ₹73,999 ($988) in India for the solitary 8GB RAM/128GB storage variant.