Here’s what’s not gonna happen in this first impression: I’m not gonna fawn over the Z Flip. Why? Because folding phones offer too many compromises for me to recommend them right now. I will say this, though, a folding glass display is a technical breakthrough that should be celebrated. Also the phone arrives with 2019 internals, which should tell you everything you need to know.
On to the main event.
Let’s begin with all the things Samsung killed off from its flagship Galaxy S line in its newest incarnation:
- dramatically curved screens
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- dual selfie camera
Of those three things, only the curved display comes as a surprise with less-reflective flat panels with the so-called 2.5D fall-off at the edges. Those new Dynamic AMOLED display panels are amazing, though and make my S10 look a little sandy in comparison.
Samsung did address some of the concerns I raised with the preceding models (which receive customary price cuts and present slightly better value than the new devices) and equipped the Galaxy S20 family with a few headline specs:
- Exynos 990 processor
- minimum 12GB LPDDR5 RAM
- USB 3.2 (USB type-C)
- 5G (only sub-6GHz on the vanilla S20, dual radios on the higher models)
- bigger camera sensors
I’m not gonna list specs here, but know that the numbers are big, the RAM goes up to 16GB if you splurge on the 512GB versions and the 5G radios aren’t active in our market because we don’t currently have either a regulatory framework or a mobile carrier network to support it. You’ll be future proof, though, and the networks will be able to send out a patch to enable those radios when they inevitably get their shit together.
Pricing and availability:
S20 family available 6 March
S20 R19000, S20+ R21000, S20 Ultra R27000
Z Flip available 22 Feb
Galaxy Buds+ free gift for pre-orders. Samsung Care+ once-off R500.
Good pricing @SamsungMobileSA
— Lindsey Schutters (@SharpSchutters) February 11, 2020
Big batteries across the board with 4 000, 4 500 and 5 000mAh cells in the respective S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra models. And boy are they gonna need it. Those 6.2, 6.7 and 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED screens are set to 1440p (quad HD) out the box with the option to engage 120Hz refresh rate at 1080p in settings. The digitizer is also sampling touch inputs at a rate of 240 times per second (240Hz). That’s a lot of current draw and we haven’t even fired up the 5G radios yet.
Exynos 990 also goes hard on the clock speeds on its octa-core architecture with the high performance dual Mongoose cores firing at 2.73GHz, a pair of A76s at 2.6GHz and even the low power A55 quad arrangement screaming in at 2GHz. Look, that CPU should power through every task you throw at it, but it’s gonna chew up battery power.
I’ll reserve judgement on the cameras until I get a review sample because the demo area isn’t the best place to get a sense of it. Samsung claims larger sensors across the board, but were light on details. There’s some nifty 9-pixel binning (Nona-binning) to bring the 108MP sensor to 12MP, a 30x periscope zoom that can crop to 100x zoom, better sampling for Night Mode alongside other AI processing tricks, and the triumphant return of manual video controls.
Also, 8K video recording isn’t a thing yet and the in some cases the phones switch to the telephoto camera to achieve that. I’m sure the cameras will land at the top of the pile, but it bothers me that there’s so much variation in the camera hardware between the three devices.
My instincts say that the Galaxy S20+ is the one most people should get because it brings at least some of the headline features, but Samsung is doing the customer no favours with such a big split between models.