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Samsung is once again claiming its place at the top with the launch of three flagship smartphones: the Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. All three models are expensive, so do they offer value for money? Orange’s verdict is they do – with a few buts...
If you think a smartphone costing over € 700 is too expensive and paying more than € 1,100 is downright absurd, you should probably stop reading now. But you’re not alone. According to Omdia’s tech watchers, smartphones that sell for € 300 or less are the best-sellers, not the flagship models. The best-selling Android phone in 2019 was the Samsung Galaxy A10, which cost 85 % less than the new S20 Ultra.
New standards for the Android market
Flagships are therefore not the real workhorses, though they do play an important part in the competition between the top manufacturers. Companies like Apple, Samsung and Huawei use them to showcase their technological capabilities. This is certainly the case with the Samsung Galaxy S20. The new Samsung phone cameras have reached the same standard as the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro. In terms of battery, screen and processor speed, the new Samsungs might even set a new standard for the Android market. The South Korean company is almost certainly releasing its big showstoppers – the Galaxy S20 Ultra even has 5G – now because the position of its biggest Android competitor is uncertain: since the US government no longer allows Huawei to offer Google services, this will seriously compromise the chances of any future Huawei devices.
Monster pixels a shot in the dark?
As mentioned, the S20 series cameras have reached the same standard as the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro in 2019. The S20 and S20+ have a 10 megapixel front-facing camera and a 12 megapixel rear-facing camera for wide-angle and ultra-wide photos, and a 64 megapixel telephoto lens with a 3x hybrid optical zoom lens. The S20+ and S20 Ultra even have a fourth lens, a Time of Flight (ToF) camera that can determine depth and distance information to make your photos more beautiful than ever. At first sight, the specifications of the S20 Ultra are astonishing: 40 front-facing megapixels and 108 and 48 back-facing megapixels. This gives you top-quality photos, as a phone in that particular (price) class should. But what happens when the sun stops shining or night falls? That’s when this overkill of pixels hits a physical boundary.
In order to get those 108 pixels into the sensor, Samsung had to position them all very close together. As a result, they capture less light, and it shows: if the sun dips behind a cloud, the quality of the pictures deteriorates slightly, and this ‘megapixel monster’ is significantly outperformed by other flagships. So more pixels don’t necessarily mean better quality pictures; they simply offer bigger pictures that you can zoom in on. The same is true for the S20’s mammoth 100x zoom function. Great, you say, but unfortunately this also means 100x less focus and 100x more digital noise.
Best smartphone screen
We can’t fault the S20 screen. It is simply dazzling. Both the smaller S20 (6.2in), the somewhat larger S20+ (6.7in) and the oversized S20 Ultra (6.9in) have an AMOLED QUAD HD+ display. Experts say they are simply the best displays currently available on a smartphone.
And there is more: for the first time, Samsung has broken the 60 Hz refresh rate limit. In fact, it has doubled it to 120 Hz. The devices are set to 60 Hz mode as standard to save battery power, but it is definitely worth switching to 120 Hz for the ultimate user experience. And on top of that, you get fast-charging long-life batteries (4000 mAh, 4500 mAh and 5000 mAh respectively).
Our conclusion: if you’re looking for a smartphone in the top segment, Samsung’s three S20 phones offer a balanced range. The S20 and the S20+ retail at €743.76 and €826.40 (excluding VAT) respectively, and in our opinion they are the better choice. Of course, if you are only satisfied with the very best, by all means go for the S20 Ultra. The target price of € 1,115.66 is pretty ‘ultra’ in itself, but it may be worth it if you want to be optimally prepared for the 5G revolution.