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REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

The Galaxy S20 Plus is our favourite model in the Samsung S20 series and here’s why

All of the Samsung Galaxy S20 series handsets are flagship models and all have 5G variants available so none of them should be considered as mid-range or budget. It may seem that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus sits in the middle of the range and that the S20 Ultra is better, but if you are the kind of person who likes premium features, the S20 Plus model is well worth considering for the following reasons.

Design

The design of Samsung’s flagship S Series handsets are always impressive but they’ve truly surpassed themselves with the S20 Plus. It’s elegant design is hard to appreciate without actually holding one in your hand to marvel at it’s 20:9 aspect ratio screen and light, slim build at a mere 7.8 millimeters thickness.

This completely contradicts the trend of other 5G enabled handsets, which tend to be chunkier than their 4G counterparts. It’s thin aluminium frame is sandwiched between Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and the back and it surrounds the new rectangular camera system which, despite not having the 100x zoom range of the S20 Ultra, still performs to an incredible standard.

Perhaps the most impressive design element of this handset are the almost non-existent bezels that surround the S20 Plus’ display. They are even tiny on the bottom of the phone and it’s stunning screen is only marginally marred by the smallest of pinhole selfie cameras.

Display

Despite being very slightly curved at its edges, the screen is not what you would call a curved display. It is still a flat screen device. And just like all Samsung S Series phones, the screen is one of it’s main highlights.

It boasts a 6.7 inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x: Infinity-O Display with 525 PPI and HDR10+ certification. But perhaps the most impressive feature about the screen is it’s 120Hz refresh rate. This means that the screen is refreshed or updated twice as often as regular displays, giving you much smoother scrolling and animation which adds to the whole user experience. For now, however, you can’t combine the 120Hz refresh rate with the Quad HD+ resolution. You have to drop down to 1080p, but Samsung are working on fixing this imminently.

The display is amongst the very best in existence on any smartphone right now and it’s practically bezel-less design makes it a pleasure to behold. If one of your main motivations for buying a smartphone is it’s display, then Samsung definitely have you covered with the S20 series.

Software

It goes without saying that state-of-the-art technology must run on state-of-the-art software and the S20 Series comes fully loaded with Android 10-based One UI 2.0. Samsung has revised their gesture navigation system and now the device requires you to swipe in from the sides of the screen to go back rather than swiping up. This is a definite improvement to the user experience.

There is also a system-wide dark mode which can be scheduled to automatically turn on between sunset and sunrise.

Swipe right from the homescreen and you’ll be taken to Samsung Daily. This will give you a list of widgets to certain apps that are installed on your phone and can be customised in the menu to display the ones you want. Swipe the tab in the top corner of the display to get quick access to certain apps or to your tools like the compass, tally counter, torch, surface level and ruler. It also gives you access to Smart select, which lets you capture a portion of the screen to use as an image or as a GIF. This can be customised to display the apps and tools that you want and is very handy.

Performance

The actual performance of the S20 Plus is also extremely impressive. The new chipset performance, even compared to last year’s Note 10 Plus is noticeably faster. The Exynos 990 or the Snapdragon 865 (depending on your region) together with 12GB of RAM may have something to do with the noticeable increase in performance. But it’s also Samsung’s eUFS 3.0 storage that drastically improves loading times which again adds to the fantastically smooth user experience.

The S20 Plus 5G also performs when it comes to its connectivity with Sub-6 and Millimeter wave bands supported. Most areas that have 5G at the moment use Sub-6 bands, which give us good network speeds but are relatively slow in comparison to Millimeter wave which can easily provide speeds in excess of 1 gigabit per second. So although Millimeter wave speeds are not widely available at the moment, the S20 Plus 5G should eventually get even faster as the networks evolve.

Cameras

The camera is the main difference between this and the more expensive Galaxy S20 Ultra. The 108-megapixel sensor and 100x ‘space zoom’ do not feature in the Galaxy S20 Plus so you may worry that you are getting a camera that’s inferior to the Ultra and in some ways that is true. However, the performance of the S20 Plus camera should definitely not be overlooked and the photo quality is simply outstanding.

And it’s not just the photos, video is also incredible with all of the S20 Series being able to shoot video at 8K resolution and with very good stabilisation.

The exceptional front camera is a 10 megapixel unit with an f/2.2 lens and there is no difference between the front and rear camera in the quality that they provide. Best of all, this camera can shoot beautifully smooth 4K video at 60 frames per second. The stabilisation is so good that it looks like the user has a gimbal. This phone is definitely one for the selfie lovers.

On the back there is a Quad camera system for the S20 Plus. This consists of two brand new 12 megapixel sensors. One is an ultra wide angle with a 13 millimeter focal length. The other is a normal lens with a 26 millimeter focal length and an f/1.8 lens. These are paired with Samsung’s new 64 megapixel sensor, and it’s used with the telephoto lens, providing a 3x hybrid optical zoom and 30x super-resolution zoom.

This combines the ability to crop the high resolution images with the optical zoom to give very usable shots up to 20x. Pushing it to 30x means a huge drop in quality but it really is incredible how much detail is in the 64 megapixel images.

The other lens on the back of the device is it’s depth vision camera. This is the first time in a Samsung device this brilliant bit of kit has featured which is a time-of-flight sensor and allows the device to know how far away it’s subject is and therefore produce fantastic portrait shots and live focus video.

As always, Samsung pack plenty of features into the camera app.

Single Take is a new feature that allows you to record a short clip where the AI will choose the best moments and grab images from your video. There’s also a new Pro Video Mode allowing for full manual controls of the video settings perfect for filmmakers who want to make the most of that amazing 8K resolution. It really is a stunning camera system that is a lot of fun to use and produces quality shots even at high magnification.

There’s really not that much difference compared to the Ultra

Despite not having the headline grabbing specs of the Ultra , the real difference between the two cameras is a lot smaller than you think. The quality of the video at all resolutions is incredible, with excellent stabilisation, especially at 1080p with the ultra wide angle camera able to use Super Steady Shot.

This mode shoots video at a much higher resolution but will give you a 1080p video allowing the camera to heavily crop in and then correct for any kind of handshake. The stabilisation is also very good at 4K, 4k 60fp and at 8K resolution.

It really is incredible what Samsung have done here for video, there are very few cameras that are capable of shooting at 8K resolution and the ones that can cost a lot more than this device.

The performance from the camera, especially for video, goes some way to justify the price tag.

Sound

Good sound quality with stereo speakers has always been a feature of the S Series devices and naturally the Galaxy S20 Plus continues that trend and provides a good well balanced sound that has plenty of volume.

Battery Life

With so much sophisticated high-end technology on board, the S20 Plus needs a powerful battery to keep it going throughout the day. The S20 Plus comes with a 4500 mAh battery which can be charged quickly with superfast 25 watt charging and 15 watt wireless charging.

The battery performance has been surprisingly good considering that this phone has to power both a 5G modem and it’s 120Hz display. Switching to 60Hz does provide a noticeable boost in battery life although the extra drain of having it in 120Hz mode is not as bad as you would expect.

Regardless of how you use it, a full day’s use is easily possible.

Summary

Overall, this is a stunning phone. A beautiful design with cutting edge technology but it’s of course at the upper end of the scale when it comes to price. The Galaxy S20 Plus starts at £899 whilst the 5G version will cost you £999, or you can buy it on a pay monthly contract with a mobile network. But considering that this phone keeps much of the same technology as the more expensive Galaxy S20 Ultra, including the chipset and the display, it’s only really in the camera system that we see differences in hardware.  And although the camera tech in the Galaxy S20 Plus is not exactly the same, it does match the quality of the more expensive Ultra.

We’re really impressed with the S20 Plus and think it’s a more sensible purchase than the Ultra. But we’d love to know what you think? Please leave us a comment and let us know if you’d go for this phone over the Ultra?

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