Are ‘Space Zoom’ and 8K recording enough to justify an incredibly high price?
Samsung’s bouquet of premium Android smartphones this year looks promising. We have the S20 series for photography enthusiasts, and the Galaxy Z Flip for those looking for the bleeding edge of smartphone technology. We haven’t even counted the next Galaxy Note smartphone, which should come later in the year, and will no doubt have unique features to brag about too.
The big focus for the new Galaxy S20 series this year are the cameras. Samsung is making a lot of noise about its new ‘Space Zoom’ feature and the fact that the S20 models are the first to offer 8K video recording at a useful framerate. The phones looked quite impressive when we first saw them at Samsung’s Unpacked event last month, and now it’s time to take a closer and more in-depth look, starting with the Galaxy S20+.
This is the direct successor to the Galaxy S10+ ? 70,998 and like with every iteration, we should expect a sleeker design, better battery life, improved camera performance, and of course, a more powerful processor.
Priced at Rs. 73,999 in India for the sole 128GB version, is the Galaxy S20+ ? 73,999 worth it? Let’s have a look.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ design
The Galaxy S20+ is instantly recognisable as a Samsung smartphone. Compared to the Galaxy S10+, Samsung has refined the design. The upper and lower bezels of the display are narrower, and the glass back has a wider curve at the sides, covering more of the aluminium frame. This phone is still very comfortable to hold but the glossy finish does make it quite slippery. It’s not too thick at 7.8mm, but it’s slightly heavier than its predecessor at 186g.
The narrow display borders and slightly taller body have allowed Samsung to use a much larger display. The Galaxy S20+ features a 6.7-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel, with support for HDR 10+ and, for the first time, a 120Hz refresh rate. You can set the display to run at 60Hz at its full resolution, or 120Hz at or a lower, full-HD+ resolution (which is the default setting) if you like. However, you can’t have the 120Hz refresh rate at the full resolution, at least not yet. There have been rumours about Samsung planning on allowing this with a software update in the future.
The Galaxy S20+ loses the secondary selfie camera that the Galaxy S10+ had, and instead there’s a single, centre-mounted hole-punch cutout. It’s not obtrusive in any way, and apps generally block out that area, so the cutout doesn’t interfere with menus or other UI elements from fullscreen apps. The volume and power buttons are on the right, and Samsung has done away with the dedicated Bixby button. Instead, you can customise the long-press function of the power button to either wake Bixby or launch the power menu. A double-press action can also be set to launch the camera, open Bixby, or any other app.
The SIM tray is on the top of the phone and can either house two Nano-SIMs or a single SIM and a microSD card. At the bottom of the phone, Samsung has gotten rid of the headphone socket for its flagships since the Galaxy Note 10 ? 69,999, and so here, we just have the microphone, USB Type-C port, and a speaker. There is an earpiece just above the camera hole, cleverly camouflaged between the outer frame and display, making it virtually impossible to see.
We have the Cosmic Gray colour variant of the Galaxy S20+, but it’s also available in Could Blue and Cosmic Black trims in India. There is a rectangular camera bump on the rear, which houses four camera sensors, a microphone, and the LED flash.
The design of the camera cluster reminds us a lot of some of the recent Galaxy A-series offerings we’ve seen, which we feel dilutes the Galaxy S20 series’ street presence a little. We would have liked a more distinctive design for the rear of this phone, much like what Apple did with the iPhone 11 ? 63,900 (Review) series, just to give its flagships better flaunt value.
Having said that, the Galaxy S20+ feels a lot more premium than any of Samsung’s mid-range phones, once you actually hold it. It’s extremely well built, has a higher screen-to-body ratio, and is still fairly light. In the box, you can expect to find a 25W fast charger, a Type-C to Type-C charging cable, an AKG-branded headset, a silicone case, and the usual leaflets. The Galaxy S20+ ships with a screen guard which for once is well applied and not intrusive when performing gestures.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ specifications and software
Globally, Samsung is marketing the S20 series as 5G smartphones, however in India, the entire S20 series will only support 4G. The 5G version of the Galaxy S20+ comes in multiple storage variants but the LTE-only version, which we have, is sold in just one configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The latter is expandable, which is something we don’t see too often these days on flagship phones. Samsung has also used LPDDR5 memory here, which promises higher data rates and lower power consumption.
Like all previous Galaxy S flagships sold in India, the Galaxy S20+ is powered by an Exynos chip rather than a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, and the one used here is the Exynos 990. You can read more about it here, but essentially it’s a 7nm octa-core SoC with two custom Samsung cores for heavy-duty tasks, two Cortex-A76 cores and four Cortex-A55 cores for lighter workloads. Graphics is handled by the Mali-G77 GPU, which claims to offer a 20 percent boost in performance over the previous generation. Overall, we should expect performance along the lines of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 SoC.
You also get all the other flagship connectivity features you would expect such as Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, stereo speakers tuned by AKG, Hi-Res audio support for wired headphones, IP68 dust and water resistance, fast wireless charging, NFC, and MST support for Samsung Pay.
The Galaxy S20+ runs One UI 2.1 which is based on Android 10, and our unit originally shipped with the February security patch. However, we received a software update, during our review with the March security patch. The latest version of Samsung’s Android skin feels extremely refined, and even though there are a tonne of features to explore, it doesn’t feel cluttered or overwhelming.
Features such as Samsung Dex and Link to Windows are present, and you also get the usual Samsung staples such as a built-in screen recorder, a screenshot editor, Edge screen, and a highly customisable always-on-display. Augmented reality (AR) features are all grouped together in an app called AR Zone, so you don’t have to launch the camera app just to use features such as AR Doodle.
One UI will show you promotional messages as notifications but this can be fixed by simply disabling a few toggles in the Privacy menu of the Settings app.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ performance and battery life
The Galaxy S20+ delivered rock-solid performance in the time we used it, and we expected nothing less. One UI has really grown on us, and today it’s easily one of our favourite Android skins. The 120Hz display makes scrolling through menus feel snappy and gives the overall usage experience a more fluid feel. However, we preferred using the Galaxy S20+ at the QHD+ resolution just for that extra bit of sharpness in the UI, but that’s just us. It’s a little surprising that 120Hz is not enabled by default (which should have been the case), as we suspect many users might not discover that this option even exists.
The Exynos 990 is a solid performer, and the benchmarks solidify our experience. In AnTuTu, we got a score of 5,17,291 points, while the 3DMark Slingshot Extreme graphics test returned 6,721 points. These numbers were slightly lower than the scores we got from the Realme X50 Pro 5G (5,69,618 in AnTuTu and 7,202 in 3DMark). In any case, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any difference in real-world performance and even games. The usual heavy-hitters such as PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade ran absolutely smoothly at the highest settings. The Galaxy S20+ got quite hot after about 20 minutes of gaming, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle.
The display is easily one of the best we’ve come across. Colours are rich with very good saturation, and brightness is more than adequate. The ambient light sensor can be a little sluggish at times, when it comes to adjusting brightness to match ambient light, but this isn’t a big complaint. HDR content looks very good, and thanks to the slimmer bezels, watching videos felt very immersive.
Audio quality from the stereo speakers was quite impressive too. The earpiece and the bottom-firing speaker sounded well balanced, and with Dolby Atmos enabled, the spatial separation was audibly better. Bass is still a little weak but there’s enough warmth in the sound to prevent it from seeming tinny. The bundled AKG provides equally good audio as well as passive isolation from ambient noise.
We should touch upon the phone’s biometric authentication systems. There’s the ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, which is fast and didn’t fail us during the review period. Face recognition is also an option, and it works well but isn’t as fast as we would have liked. It also tends to struggle in very low light, in which case, we had to resort to our fingerprint for authentication.
All of this does take a toll on battery life, which is why Samsung has bumped up the capacity to 4,500mAh for the Galaxy S20+. It’s safe to say that battery life is pretty solid, but not exceptional. We were able to get a 24-hour runtime on most days, when our usage wasn’t very heavy. However, on days when we used the camera a lot or played games for a long time, we did have to charge the phone a little sooner.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to charge the Galaxy S20+. With the bundled 25W adapter, we managed to charge the battery up to 55 percent in half an hour and up to 93 percent in an hour. It also supports Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, if you have a compatible 10W or higher wireless charger. Like before, the Galaxy S20+ also supports Wireless PowerShare or reverse wireless charging, which can be used to charge accessories such as the Galaxy Buds+.
Samsung Galaxy S20+ cameras
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ has a brand new camera setup with two of the highlight features being 8K video recording and up to 30x hybrid zoom. The primary sensor still has a 12-megapixel resolution with Dual Pixel autofocus, an f/1.8 aperture, and OIS, but the pixel size is now 1.8 microns compared to 1.4 microns on the previous model.
The ultra wide-angle camera also uses a 12-megapixel sensor, but with smaller 1.4 micron pixels, a narrower f/2.2 aperture, and no autofocus. The telephoto camera gets the biggest change, with a 64-megapixel sensor but no optical stabilisation. The ‘Plus’ model that we have has a depth vision camera which is absent in the standard Galaxy S20. Another change, which you’ve probably noticed, is that Samsung has ditched its variable aperture system with the Galaxy S20 series, for better or worse.
The camera interface feels familiar if you’ve used any recent Samsung phone. We have a customisable row of shooting modes just above the shutter button, while the rest of the settings such as the aspect ratio, timer and toggle for ‘Motion photo’ sit on the far side of the viewfinder. The app offers toggles to enable the Scene Optimiser, which detects objects or a scene in the frame. Shot Suggestion will offer tips to better your framing, and there are experimental features such as HDR 10+ video, which can be enabled.
Initial reviews of the Galaxy S20 Ultra ? 92,999 highlighted some big issues with the autofocus system, which Samsung has promised to fix. While we didn’t face any such issues with the Galaxy S20+ while we were testing it, we received a software update which promised improvements for the cameras. We re-tested the cameras and didn’t find anything new or different about the usage experience, but we did note that low light selfies seemed to have gotten better.
When shooting with the main camera under good light, the Galaxy S20+ captured very good details with pleasing colours and no visible noise in the shadow areas. HDR is handled very well, even when shooting subjects directly against the light. With the wide-angle camera, there’s a lot more of any scene to capture, but you do get some barrel distortion. Close-up shots also turned out great, with excellent detail, sharpness and good natural bokeh.
The really fun part is the phone’s new zoom system. The telephoto camera offers 2x optical zoom, and beyond that, it uses a mix of AI-assisted hybrid zoom and digital zoom. You can directly jump to certain zoom levels with dedicated buttons that appear once you tap the telephoto icon in the viewfinder. You can manually zoom in to a precise point as well, using the traditional pinch gesture.
Photos taken with the telephoto camera were good, given ample light. During our initial testing, we found image quality inconsistent, but following the software update, things seem to have gotten better. After the 10x zoom level, textures on objects look visibly smoothened as grain and noise are removed. At the full 30x zoom, the Galaxy S20+ is able to resolve a decent amount of detail. Compared to cropping a native 64-megapixel sample, the same image with a 30x zoom offers better clarity. Beyond 20x, you get a little preview window in the upper left corner of the viewfinder to help you frame your shot.
In low light, using high levels of zoom doesn’t yield very favourable results. However, using Night mode with 10x zoom can offer vastly better results than a standard shot with the same zoom level. Speaking of Night mode, this works across all three main sensors and helps get rid of grain and improves exposures. Low-light performance in general is very good too. We managed to get some good details and colours with the primary camera, and noise was handled well too.
Live Focus mode works well, and we had a good success rate with people, but objects were a bit of a hit or miss. The background depth effect can be adjusted before or after you take a shot, and you can even apply different bokeh effects. Edge detection was also handled well.
A new shooting mode in the Galaxy S20+ is called Single Take. With this, the camera captures a 10-second video along with stills at various intervals, and based on what’s being shot, it will automatically apply filters to some of the shots. This is most effective when you’re capturing an activity, rather than a still scene.
The Galaxy S20+ is a very capable smartphone for video too. The highlight of course is 8K video, which works well, but you’ll need an 8K display or TV to really take advantage of such footage. It’s great that we have a phone that can record at this resolution, but since the frame rate is limited to 24fps, we found it better to simply stick with 4K video. Image quality is very good in daylight, with excellent stabilisation and details. In low light, the stabilisation causes a bit of a wobble effect in video, but other than this, the quality is good.
You can switch between all the cameras, including the selfie camera, when shooting up at to 4K resolution at 30fps. Video quality understandably isn’t very good when shooting with the wide-angle or telephoto cameras in low light. There’s the Super Steady video mode too, which is supposed to offer gimbal-level smoothness. While it does work to an extent, we preferred the quality when using the primary camera for a couple of reasons. In Super Steady mode, only the wide-angle or telephoto cameras (depending on the perspective you select) are used, and the resolution is restricted to 1080p.
Other shooting modes include Live Focus for videos, and there’s even a manual video mode now, just like you have for stills. Super slow-motion mode is present too, but at 960fps, you’re still limited to a 720p resolution.
Coming to the selfie camera, we have a 10-megapixel sensor with Dual Pixel AF and an f/2.2 aperture. During the day, the beautification filter that’s on by default smoothens skin textures quite heavily, making photos look unnatural. Switching it off improves results considerably. Live Focus is also a bit of a hit or miss, with incorrect edge detection. Before the software update, we had terrible results with the selfie camera in low light, but things have improved a bit post the update.
The Galaxy S20+ might seem very expensive, but Samsung has actually priced it the same as the Galaxy S10+, when it launched a year ago. From that perspective, the Galaxy S20+ offers improved design and performance across the board, which makes it a worthy upgrade. Some of its stand-out features include the new zoom system for the rear cameras, the excellent display, solid battery life, and a sleeker design. Other things such as reverse wireless charging, the stereo speakers, and the lean software make this a very good package to consider.
However this phone does have its share of weakness, such as the fact that it gets quite warm when playing heavy games for extended periods of time, and face recognition doesn’t work very well in low light. The design of the back is also a bit bland for a flagship phone in 2020. Battery life, while good, could have been better, and fast charging isn’t as quick as some of the solutions we’ve seen from other manufacturers.
Another sore point for some buyers might be the lack of 5G support in the Indian models. While it’s not a big loss if you’re only going to be using your phone in India, it could be a deal-breaker for people who travel a lot or who intend to hold on to their expensive purchases for several years. Both Realme and iQoo have launched 5G devices in India for a lot less, making the Indian Galaxy S20+ seem less future-proof.
Overall, the Galaxy S20+ is still a great flagship that offers excellent all-round performance, top-of-the-line features, and of course, brand value.