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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: the right price for the right stuff

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The new Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the fourth phone in the S line this year. That’s a lot of variants, and it doesn’t include the two Note 20 phones and seemingly innumerable A-series phones Samsung also released this year. Trying to figure out which one has the right mix of features and price for you can feel like you need a spreadsheet, an accountant, and an actuary standing by.

Luckily, most of Samsung’s S-series and Note phones have lots of good things going for them: a fast processor, good build quality, nice screens, and decent cameras. I’m not saying you can’t go wrong, but the S20 FE keeps enough of the most important “flagship” parts to make it a great value at $699.

It’s also proof positive that when Samsung wants to turn a phone around quickly, it can. Development began immediately after the original three S20 phones were announced in March 2020 as it became clear the economy would be tanked by the pandemic.

But the Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t feel like a rush job. It has a few high-quality components that will delight while the cheaper parts don’t hurt the experience too much.

Galaxy S20 FE hardware

The Galaxy S20 FE is built around a 6.5-inch 1080p OLED display. It’s a fully flat screen with bezels that are totally fine but more visible than they are on other S20 devices.

The fact that the screen is “only” 1080p isn’t a problem, even at this size. The thing you get in exchange is a 120Hz high refresh rate, which makes scrolling smoother and some games look better. I’m very pleased to see it on a phone that costs $700, especially since Samsung weirdly left it out of the more expensive Galaxy Note 20.

There is a distracting and annoying silver rim around the selfie camera
There is a distracting and annoying silver rim around the selfie camera.
The back is plastic but it feels solid.
The back is plastic, but it feels solid.

Samsung is sticking to its guns on colors and vibrancy on this screen — which means it’s a little overbearing out of the box. Luckily, you can tone it down by hunting down the “natural” screen mode.

But the hardware element that’s most likely to draw criticism is the back of the phone. It’s plastic, but don’t let that throw you. The phone overall still feels sturdy and solid. Samsung is offering it in six different colors, too: navy, lavender, mint, red, white, and orange. They’re all “cloud” colors, which, in Samsung’s parlance, means they have a matte finish.

The S20 FE is a little more squared-off than other S20 phones, but it still mostly feels like it belongs in the family. It’s well-made, and my only real hardware gripe is the chrome ring that surrounds the hole-punch selfie camera. It catches the light all the time and is distracting — and wholly unnecessary. Samsung does this with some A-series phones as well, and I just don’t get it.

It supports wireless charging and fast charging, though the in-box charger doesn’t have enough wattage to juice it up quickly. The battery is plenty large for a phone of this size at 4,500mAh. In my testing, I was getting through as many as two days with moderate use. It should be good for around six hours of screen time in total unless you are doing something really battery-intensive.

The three 12-megapixel sensors fit inside a very reasonably small camera bump
The three 12-megapixel sensors fit inside a very reasonably small camera bump.

Galaxy S20 FE camera

Samsung had to cut costs somewhere, and the camera is one of those places. However, I don’t miss what Samsung dropped at all. Instead of one of Samsung’s newer high-megapixel “ultra” sensors, the S20 FE has three standard 12-megapixel sensors.

That means it gets wide, ultrawide, and telephoto cameras. All three take good shots in good conditions. In night mode, I continue to be impressed with Samsung’s improvements. The S20 FE can’t quite compete head to head against the Pixel or iPhone 11 Pro, but it’s close. Video is also exactly what you’d expect: right down the middle in terms of quality. Unlike other S20 devices, the FE can’t do 8K recording — no big loss.

So the camera holds its own, but it doesn’t stand out in an appreciable way. That out but be where I leave it, but I have some long-running complaints I need to harp on. Samsung is still hanging on to three bad camera habits. None of them are bad enough to be deal-breakers, but they’re worth being aware of.

First and most importantly, Samsung still tends to overdo it with brightening photos and cranking up the vibrance. I think that’s probably what a lot of people prefer, but in some lighting conditions, it just makes everything a little neon to my eyes. You can adjust for some of this with the Pro modes and also tone some things down in post.

Secondly, Samsung continues to market its lens as being capable of 30x zoom. It is, technically, but the results at that zoom level look like somebody spilled water on a photocopy of a printout. If you keep the zoom level at 10x or less, you’ll actually be pleased with the results.

Finally, Samsung insists on smoothing faces too much, especially with the 32-megapixel selfie camera. Even if you turn off all of the filters, you’ll see something very different than what your mirror shows you.

As I said, I don’t think any one of these is a reason to avoid the S20 FE. But all three are frustrating because they’re not a result of any hardware shortcomings; they’re just decisions Samsung is making with the software.

The Galaxy S20 FE (left) and the Galaxy S20 (right)
The Galaxy S20 FE (left) and the Galaxy S20 (right).

Galaxy S20 FE performance and software

Samsung put in the pieces it knows people will care about most when it comes to performance: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and 5G. I don’t think either is a necessity (especially the 5G) for a fast, good phone. Even so, the S20 FE is plenty fast for everything I need.

While we’re on the subject of 5G, I should note that the Verizon version of this phone costs $50 more. That’s because it needs to include the components necessary for Verizon’s mmWave 5G network. A network, I should add, that only works if you are within throwing distance of one of its sporadically visible urban towers.

Though I had no issues with speed, lag, or launch times, I will admit I haven’t pushed this phone to the limits of what some phones can do now. It’s possible that power users could hit the limits of the phone, however. Samsung cut some costs by dropping the RAM from 12GB to 6GB, which can affect multitasking and Samsung’s DeX desktop interface. It also limits the S20 FE to one storage configuration: 128GB, but it’s expandable with microSD.

Samsung’s One UI software is the same on the S20 FE as it is on all the other S20 and Note 20 phones. I enjoy many of its extra features and think its overall design is coherent and even elegant in some places. I also find it endlessly infuriating that Samsung finds little corners of it to stick advertising or prompts to sign up for partner services.

I also don’t like Bixby, which is a bad digital assistant. You can still use Google Assistant, and with a little software tomfoolery, you can even remap a long-press of the power button to Assistant.

The Galaxy S20 FE
The Galaxy S20 FE.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE arrives at a very interesting time and as part of an interesting trend. It just barely beats the Google Pixel 5 to market (for the same price) and is also coming ahead of new iPhones. That Pixel is, and at least one of those iPhones will likely be, priced right around the same cost as the Galaxy S20 FE.

Phone companies are waking up to the idea that people who don’t want to spend $1,000 on a phone still want a new phone, not just an older one at a discount. Samsung, as it often does, leads this trend by making sure store shelves can be stacked with its products at every conceivable price point. The S20 FE was rapidly developed not just to meet the economic downturn, but to make sure Samsung has something new in that $699 slot.

And though the Galaxy S20 FE can justifiably be called a rushed-together “parts bin” phone, that doesn’t mean Samsung didn’t make something really solid here. It did. The combination of speed, a big high refresh rate screen, decent battery, competent cameras, and Samsung’s build quality add up to a result that is remarkably close to the pitch: S20 flagship features at a more reasonable price. All the S20 phones share those qualities; the flagships just have a bit more.

Samsung phones also all tend to share another quality: frequent and sometimes substantial discounts. As I and my colleague Dan Seifert have been repeating ad nauseam, it’s always worth waiting to see if the price will come down or if you can buy a step-up phone for the same price.

If you pick up a Galaxy S20 FE, you’ll be happy. But if you can find a regular S20 or S20 Plus for the same price, you’ll be even happier.

Photography by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

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The 10 Best Deals of October 27, 2020

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Gif: Juliana Clark

Best Deals of the DayBest Deals of the DayThe best deals from around the web, updated daily.

Tuesday’s Best Deals | Kinja Deals

It’s October 27, and we at Kinja Deals are here to bring you the top 10 deals of the day. Kick back with some vegan CBD gummies. Prep for your future Zoom calls with the MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit. Try your hand at indoor gardening with the AeroGarden Harvest 360.

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If you’re still looking to snag some deals, take a look at Tuesday’s best deals overall.

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If you’re going to give OLED a try, this might be the time to start considering. I’ll contend you can still get away with an LG B7, the baseline from a couple of generations ago, but the TVs have gotten exceptional. Burn-in and input lag are two of the biggest knocks against OLED, especially for gamers, but according to reviews, that should be a non-issue on the LG CX. So long as you’re not watching the news or playing games with the same HUD for many consecutive hours on end, you shouldn’t run into any nasty image retention issues anytime soon.

Now down to its all-time low price of $1,497 on Amazon and at BuyDig, this 55″ TV is one of the best LG currently has to offer. It begins with that beautiful OLED panel, of course, which bids sayonara to muddy grays and backlight bleed thanks to its per-pixel lighting. For movies, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision HDR return to give you the best cinematic experience possible, the latter adding a feature that automatically tunes the picture around your ambient lighting conditions and the content you’re watching.

The TV also includes both AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, both of which are gaming features that eliminate screen tearing with little (if any) added input lag.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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You can now commemorate your digital rags to riches story in Animal Crossing with a real world bell bag, now bundled with the game for $55. The bag alone is normally $20, and with Animal Crossing: New Horizons usually hovering around $50 these days, it’s a nice $15 value. We’ve talked at length about the game ‘round here, but this rave is all about that bag!

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This soft plush bag is super authentic with a brown star patch and a red drawstring to keep whatever you decide to carry inside from spilling out. The bag is about 5.95 inches wide and 4.9 inches tall, which isn’t a whole lot of room, but I’m sure you can find a good use for it!

Put down your purses, backpacks, and pocketbooks and try on an oldish-new way to transport your personal items and currencies. (Or, you know, just add it to your ever-growing Nintendo shrine.)

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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There’s nothing more vegan than letting everyone know you’re vegan, and while I don’t partake in the diet myself, I do try to reduce my animal-based intake where possible. And for avid CBD users like myself, it can be hard to find gummies that don’t use gelatin or other animal products to get their chewy mouthfeel. Complete with vitamins D3 and B12, Sunday Scaries Vegan AF gummies yield all the benefits of its classic Gummies for Chillin’ except, you know, without the dissuasive ingredients. Made from broad spectrum CBD oil and coconut oil, unlike some competing brands, Sunday Scaries’ gummies contain no THC, not even like trace amounts of the stuff. So if you’re trying to cut down on the devil’s lettuce, let our exclusive discount help with that.

Because CBD lacks the psychoactive chemical found in THC, it doesn’t get you “high” per se. Instead, it makes you feel relaxed while sober. Just pop a tasty gummy or two and you’re set to lie down for the night, free from racing thoughts about the impending doom of work tomorrow, hence the name Sunday Scaries. For a limited time, you can save 25% on these vegan CBD gummies using the promo code ESINV25 to see what it’s all about. Automatically applied at checkout, this brings the grand total down to $35, or $31 if you choose to subscribe and save. Before long, you’ll be singing its praises without ethical concern for environmental impact (well, save for the packaging I presume).

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This deal was originally published by Gabe Carey.

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If you need a massive storage upgrade and don’t need SSD transfer speeds, this Seagate Gold Box is perfect timing. External hard drives are up to 35% off at Amazon for the day, including a 2TB Backup Plus Slim that’s only $53, and you can get more than double the space for less than double the cost with this 5TB for $98.

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If you have tons of big games and large movies, you might want to step up to this 8TB instead, which is just $123 with the discount. There are options all the way up to a massive 10TB at Amazon, so shop around before the calendar turns.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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Over 11,000 customers can’t be wrong. 60% of Amazon reviewers have given the MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit a 5-star rating. If you’ve been looking to clean up a few coffee stains or make those pearly whites a little brighter this is the kit you’ve been searching for. Save 30% on this kit today.

If you’ve seen these sets before you know it comes with a LED light that helps accelerate the whitening process. It has a built-in timer so you don’t need to worry about setting one yourself and each session will be accurate. Also in this kit are the three 3mL teeth whitening gel syringes and the mouth trays for top and bottom. This kit provides enough gel for nine treatments. The trays don’t need to be molded which alleviates a huge headache and is usually my biggest gripe when I’ve tried kits akin to this one. Several customers have mentioned this worked just as well with their sensitive teeth which are really nice to know if you’re on the delicate side. Use these bad boys once a day for ten minutes and see stains from your life fade away even after one treatment. If only you could remove other problems that easily.

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This deal was originally published by Sheilah Villari.

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I live in a basement apartment so I thought this would be a fun experiment when I got one of these. I also with a roommate who is an excellent cook and constantly looking for fresh herbs and our garden isn’t reliable with the neighborhood creatures. I was pleasantly surprised by the AeroGarden Harvest 360 and if you’re a foodie with a green thumb this is the deal for you. Save $50 on this model right now.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I don’t think it was for them to all grow so quickly. I put the AeroGarden in my room on a high shelf away from all the dogs, so a pretty lightless area. I will say the 20W LED grow-lights are very bright, but duh, they’re supposed to be the sun. They’re on a timer too so you don’t need to worry about turning it on and off. It was easy to set up and I really love that it’s got light indicators that let you know when your plant babies need water or food. Yes, it comes with plant food that’s easy to measure out and pour in the well. It was simple enough to get the pods into the AeroGarden with relatively no mess. I haven’t figured out how to harvest them yet which will need to be done very soon. My pack came with Genovese basil, Thai basil, dill, curly parsley, mint, and thyme. I can say the basil smells lovely. This was a fun experiment that I was pleasantly surprised by and I’d be willing to try some more advanced things like lettuce or tomatoes. The AeroGarden is a great alternative for the plant minded individual worried about pesticides or herbicides.

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This deal was originally published by Sheilah Villari.

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Listen, no matter how loud the anti-maskers have a temper tantrum, masks protect yourself and others from COVID-19. We’re living in a pandemic and you know, it requires a bit of preparation for going out in public. This 40-Pack of KN95 masks is $24. Yes, masks are overpriced these days, but these five-layer KN95 masks block 95% of air particles up to .3-micron levels. What are you waiting for? Grab a box and start using them!

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher. 

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If you’ve been looking for a way to take your temperature (or anyone else’s) without touching, you should look into this infrared forehead thermometer. It measures the heat coming off you in about a second for the best possible reading. You can also use it in the ear. It’s only $22, which is about $40 off the original list price. I would grab it before it’s gone.

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This deal was originally published by Quentyn Kennemer.

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Our pals at Elle Paradis want to treat you not trick you this week unless you’re into that. As a lead up to the spookiest day of the year grab 2 extra good when you spend $75.

My favorite little devil bullet ($22) is one of the free goodies. Channel your dark side in a discrete and clever manner. This smooth silicone little satan vibe has ten different settings and will be as naughty as you want to. Easy to use as it has one button and it’s splash-proof for simple cleaning. This buzzing Beelzebub will need AAA batteries but it’ll be worth it when get to dance with diablo.

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A handful of bundles are on sale for All Hallows’ Eve too. This Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun Bundle ($55) that’s discounted 77% in this deal. I do like the variety in this set though. A little something for the backdoor and the front door. Two massagers and a G-spot vibe. Stimulate the spirits just remember to clean the ectoplasm after.

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Free shipping on all orders.

This deal was originally published by Sheilah Villari.

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If you have the occasional pimple, much like me, chances are you don’t want it to be there. You should check out Rael Pimple Patches. Only $16, they’re made with hydrocolloid that’ll extract all the nasty-ass puss straight from your pimple without ever having to pop them. Which means no acne scars! They also come in two sizes, 10mm and 12mm for regular and extra-large pimples. Shoot, I might buy some!

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This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher.


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Microsoft gets a pandemic boost thanks to Surface, Xbox, and cloud services

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Microsoft posted the first quarter of its 2021 financial results today, reporting revenue of $37.2 billion and a net income of $13.9 billion. Revenue is up 12 percent, and net income has increased by 30 percent. While the ongoing pandemic continues to force many to work remotely during an economic downturn, Microsoft is benefiting from the shift in the way people are now working, playing games more, and connecting to others through videoconferencing.

Cloud services are the biggest boost to Microsoft’s revenues from the pandemic shift in behavior. Both Office commercial and consumer are up, with Office 365 Commercial revenue growth up by 21 percent. Server products and cloud services revenue has also increased 22 percent as more businesses rely on cloud services for remote working. Azure revenue itself grew 48 percent.

The biggest news here from a consumer point of view is that Microsoft 365 Consumer subscribers have also increased to 45.3 million. That’s a jump of 27 percent year-over-year, and likely thanks to Microsoft’s renewed focus on consumers with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams earlier this year.

Cloud and Office aren’t the only products driving Microsoft’s growth, though. Surface revenue has jumped by 37 percent this quarter to $1.5 billion. That’s a big increase for a quarter that hasn’t seen any new Surface devices introduced. Microsoft only just introduced a new Surface Laptop Go device and updated Surface Pro X earlier this month, but those will count to next quarter’s revenue.

Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox consoles.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Over on the gaming side, Xbox content and services revenue has also increased significantly by 30 percent compared to the same quarter last year. A number of consumers have turned to gaming and services like xCloud or Game Pass during the pandemic, and it’s clear there’s an increased demand for Microsoft’s gaming services. Microsoft notes that Xbox Game Pass subscriptions and strength in third-party and first-party titles helped with revenue.

Microsoft is now gearing up to launch its next-gen Xbox Series X and Series S consoles on November 10th. The consoles complement Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming service that launched last month, and the company’s ongoing efforts with Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft revealed it has 15 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers last month, but the company hasn’t provided any fresh numbers today.

Microsoft appears to be bullish about demand for the Xbox Series X and S consoles. “We expect very strong demand following the launch of our next-generation Xbox Series X and S consoles,” said Microsoft CFO Amy Hood during a call with investors. This demand should drive “supply constrained hardware revenue growth of approximately 40 percent” next quarter.

Microsoft reported a jump in Windows usage earlier this year after lockdowns throughout many parts of the world led to remote working for many. This jump in usage hasn’t resulted in increased Windows OEM revenue during this quarter, though. Windows OEM revenue has dropped 5 percent, and Microsoft blames lower commercial demand for the dip.

While commercial demand for PCs might be softening, Windows OEM non-pro revenue has grown by 31 percent, thanks to consumer PC demand. It’s likely that students and families are driving this growth during the pandemic, turning to PCs to help support remote learning. During an earnings call with investors, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said “PCs have become mission critical,” and that Microsoft is seeing double digit growth in monthly active devices for Windows 10.

Surface Laptop Go.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Elsewhere, LinkedIn revenue has also grown by 16 percent year-over-year with 722 million users. Search revenue has decreased by 10 percent, though. Microsoft splits its various businesses into three buckets: productivity and business processes, intelligent cloud, and more personal computing. The more personal computing bucket includes Surface, Xbox, and Windows, and Microsoft says gaming and Surface drove its revenue growth of 6 percent for this quarter.

Azure drove the intelligent cloud revenue growth, and Office 365 and LinkedIn helped the productivity and business processes bucket. It’s clear that these main revenue drivers — Azure, gaming, Surface, and Office — have been influenced by the pandemic.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the beginning of this pandemic that the company had witnessed “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” That transformation appears to be continuing for many businesses, students, and consumers.

Update, October 27th 6:10PM ET: Article updated with comments from Microsoft’s investor call.

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You can now buy Vizio’s rotating Atmos soundbar

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Vizio’s Elevate soundbar has finally hit shelves. You can buy it today for $999.99. The 48-inch soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The soundbar houses 18 speakers and comes with a wireless eight-inch subwoofer. The cool thing is that some of the speakers rotate — they face upward while you’re playing Dolby Atmos content and point forward for standard audio.

I spoke to Vizio CEO William Wang about the Elevate earlier this year. He said the soundbar is intended to hook non-enthusiast customers on Dolby Atmos by showing them, visually, the difference between the two tiers of audio. He also noted that while the Elevate is asking a steep price, he expects the rotating speakers to appear in lower-cost devices down the road. The Elevate is being positioned as a good companion purchase for Vizio’s first 4K OLED TV, which is also now available.

Currently, you can order the Elevate at Best Buy and Walmart. Vizio says it’s coming to Amazon and Sam’s Club, too, but those don’t appear to have active links yet.

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