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Samsung Galaxy S20 Review 2020 (Updated)

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Review 2020 (Updated)

All right. Are you ready? Let's do this. Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus review. Let's just set the stage here. I think that it is really easy to take the Galaxy S line of phones for granted. Samsung sells so many of them, more than any other android phone in the US, so I know it isn't hip or cool to say that I like the Galaxy S phones but I usually really like the Galaxy S phones. Sure, Pixel phones tend to have better cameras, and OnePlus gets a ton of attention and they also tend to cost less but, there's just something really familiar about the Galaxy S line. It's like the default Android phone, and so in some ways, Samsung's biggest job with the S20 and the S20 Plus was to make sure that it didn't mess up a good thing. 

Samsung Galaxy S20

Like for example, I just reviewed the S20 Ultra, this phone's big brother and I think that Samsung overextended itself with the S20 Ultra. These phones though, they're trying to do a little bit less than the Ultra and so I think they end up accomplishing more. There are three big new things about the Galaxy S20 that you need to know about. First is the new camera system, the second is that they support 5G, and third, it has a nicer screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. There's also a bunch of little stuff too like they got rid of the headphone jack. They also added a bunch of Samsung-y features to the software but before we get into any of that, let's just not take the design for granted. 

It looks a lot like what all galaxy phones have looked like for a few years now. There's curved glass in the back and metal rails and a screen that is almost perfectly bezel-less but seriously though, compare this phone to any another Android phone on the market, your Pixels, your OnePluses or even your Huawei's and I think the S20 is just plain nicer. I actually think it's nicer than the iPhone 11 Pro, just from a hardware perspective. Also the small one, it comes in pink, which is the best colour option. The camera module on the back is this big oblong rectangle that's off to the side. The screen is only interrupted by a tiny little hole for the selfie camera instead of having a big old notch or a forehead or whatever. It uses an in-screen fingerprint sensor which I have to admit is a little bit slower than other biometric methods but I do just fine with it. Now this thing starts at 1000 bucks and the Plus version is 1200 bucks and so I know that you can get most of these features for cheaper on other android phones, but the Galaxy S line just usually manages to feel more like a complete package. Samsung is charging a lot of money for this phone and for that money, you deserve to get a really nice object, and yeah, Samsung delivers. 

Don't take it for granted. Okay, enough gushing. Let's talk about the camera, which is the first big new thing you need to know about. Okay so, actually with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, I had to go into this big long complicated story about how high megapixel cameras work, but with the S20 and the S20 Plus, it's a lot easier, mostly. So the main camera is a more traditional 12 megapixels and so is the wide-angle camera. The telephoto though is 64 megapixels. Samsung says that it needs all those megapixels to improve the zoom on its telephoto and that actually works. You can get a better shot zoomed in at three or four X than you can with an iPhone or even a Pixel. It's still not great, but it's a step up. Now it also can theoretically go up to 30X but it looks really bad and it definitely loses to the S20 Ultra at that zoom, but the S20 Ultra costs 400 dollars more and I really don't think it's worth it to get decent 30X zoom shots. Now I was really hard on the Galaxy S20 Ultra for autofocus problems and for how it did weird stuff to faces. The regular S20 though, it's better for that stuff but it's not perfect. Focusing is improved and maybe that's because it's using that more traditional 12-megapixel sensor which uses a more traditional dual pixel autofocus method. It still hunts for focus just a little bit in the video but it's not awful. 

Now as for faces, I do think that this phone is a little bit chiller than the Ultra with the sharpening and the smoothing but it's still doing it more than I would like, it's a Samsung phone so it wants to smooth faces. You should never ever turn on Bixby scene detection though if you want the white balance to be any good at all. What kills me is that if you turn on the Pro mode on these cameras, everything looks great and if you use the selfie camera and turn off all the smoothing there, everything looks great. Basically, I feel like if Samsung would just get out of it's own way with the camera, the whole camera system would be right there with the iPhone 11 Pro and the Pixel 4 but as it is right now, it still a third-place finish. As a whole package, I do actually like this better than the Pixel 4 because you get an ultra-wide and you get way better video performance.

All right. There are some other features to talk about. So you can take 64megapixel photos with this, but even if you do it in really bright light, when I crop in, I didn't enough clean details to make it worth it. I think night mode is pretty good, it's right in there with the iPhone and about to the level of the Pixel, better than I expected. And the video quality of the course is very good, it's a Samsung quality video. It's not quite up to the level of the iPhone Pro though. Oh if you were thinking you wanted to get the S20 Plus instead of the smaller S20 because it has that time of flight depth vision camera, honestly don't bother. I didn't see any improvement in portrait photos because of that extra lens. The second thing to know is that these phones support 5G and I have to be honest, I didn't get a chance to really test 5G because I'm here in San Francisco where I don't have 5G networks to test on with the carriers that I have. I did test 5G on the ultra back in New York and it was great but I still think that you shouldn't buy this phone just because it supports 5G, I just don't think the 5G networks are there yet. One thing you should know is that the Plus model supports the millimetre-wave version of 5G while the smaller S20 doesn't, but unless you love standing on a particular streetcorner to download videos, who cares about millimetre-wave. Now one reason you might wanna get the S20 Plus besides the bigger screen is battery life. 

I mostly tested the smaller S20 which has a 4000 milliamp battery and after everything settled down from the initial setup, I was getting around five hours of screen time with the high refresh rate turned on. Brennan tested the S20 Plus which has a 4500 milliamp battery, he got a little bit more. I think either one can get you through a day and both really embarrass the Pixel 4 for longevity, but neither one is like stellar. As for performance, I mean it's great. The only Android phone that's faster than these phones is probably the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. There's plenty of RAM and the Snapdragon 865 processor, it seems like the real deal. Still, Samsung is doing Samsungstuff with the software, I could complain about this all day but rather than do that, I actually wanna tell you what I do to corral Samsung's worst tendencies. 


I clean up quick settings, first of all, the second I install this app called Side Actions which lets you reprogram the power and volume buttons to do the stuff that you actually wanna do like launch you know, the Google Assistant and set up Bixby. Next, I install this app called Edge Calendars which is awesome, it lets you swipe in to see your calendars right away. I turn off Samsung Daily and I also move the brightness slider up to the top so it's easier to access. Oh, there's one more setting that I turn on every time with the Galaxy S20, the 120Hz screen. I don't know if I ever wanna buy a phone again that doesn't have a high refresh rate screen, it's just, it's so much better. The animations are better, the scrolling is better, it just, it feels better. There is a trade-off for battery life though, it is worse if you have the high refresh rate on and Samsung just locks at 120Hz, it doesn't try and vary it. 

So on the small one, if you definitely need it to last all day, you might wanna ratchet it back to 60Hz. Samsung also knocks down the screen resolution when you're at 120Hz but I think that trade-off is totally worth it on both sides of the phone. Again, it just improves the experience of the phone so much. And of course, the screen is a typical Samsung screen, which means that it's, it's great. I do think Samsung's default colours are a little bit too garish, but you can set it to natural and then it just, it just looks good. Anyway, that's it. That's the third thing to know about the S20. The screen is awesome. And I don't think you should ever spend 1000 dollars on a phone again without a high refresh rate screen. Samsung decided to call this the Galaxy S20 instead of the Galaxy S11 because it has those three things. 

The new camera system, support for 5G and the high refresh rate screen. But I think the camera is only a minor evolutionary upgrade over the S10. The zoom is really nice, but otherwise, it fundamentally acts like the Samsung cameras that I'm used to. Good, but not the best. I think 5G is a wash because the support really isn't there in most cities and although I dearly love the 120Hz refresh rate screen, I understand that that's a nice to have, it's not an actual functional improvement. So yeah. In my book, this is more of an S11 than an S20. It's not a whole new generation but with fundamentals this good, I'll take it. Call it what you want Samsung. Hey, thanks so much for watching, we went pretty fast in some of the features on this phone but we went into much more detail on the Galaxy S20 Ultra review so you should go check that out. 
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