The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the awkward middle child of Samsung’s 2020 flagship phone range. It isn’t as fully featured as the top-of-the-range S20 Ultra and it’s more expensive than the S20, which has many of the same features.

However, of the three this is the phone that gives you the best bang for your buck with a larger display than the S20 and a bigger battery, plus 5G included as standard. If you can’t quite stretch to the ultra-high price of the Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the Android smartphone to buy.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review: What you need to know

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is one of three flagship Samsung phones launched in early 2020. It has a 6.7in edge-to-edge display with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate, a triple rear camera and runs Android 10.

In fact, it isn’t an awful lot different from the more expensive S20 Ultra. Its screen is 0.2in smaller but it’s the same resolution and most of the other specifications are identical – the CPU, storage, water-resistance and construction materials, among other things.

The main thing it lacks is the S20 Ultra’s insane 100x 48-megapixel hybrid zoom camera and its 108-megapixel main camera. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus has, instead, a 64-megapixel 30x hybrid zoom (3x optical) and a 12-megapixel main camera, which should be enough for most folks.

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review: Price and competition

The S20 Plus costs £999, so it’s hardly what you’d call cheap despite costing £200 less than the S20 Ultra. That’s the same as the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung’s own Note 10 Plus, which comes with a stylus and a slightly larger display. Competition at this price is somewhat stiff.

If you want to step down in price but don’t want to sacrifice too much when it comes to cameras or other features, the plain old Galaxy S20 (without 5G) is £200 less expensive and is all but identical, but has a smaller screen and slightly smaller battery. You can also choose to pay an extra £100 for the 5G-enabled model, bringing the total up to £900.

Of course, you don’t have to spend even this much and there are other manufacturers offering phones with similar feature sets for considerably less. The OnePlus 7T Pro, for example, has a triple camera array and a high-refresh-rate display, although it’s 90Hz versus the Samsung’s 120Hz.

Our favourite alternatives and where to buy them:

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review: Design and key features

Good though the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus undoubtedly is, however, it is not exactly what you’d call a looker. It’s slim and sleek enough, measuring 7.8mm thick, 162mm tall and a mere 74mm narrow and it’s also nice and light at only 186g. Coming from an iPhone 11 Pro Max it feels noticeably more lithe – taller, but lighter and slimmer – which is quite the achievement given the S20 Plus’ display is 0.2in bigger.

However, there’s nothing special about the layout of components and buttons and the all-black model I was sent for this review is a little boring to look at. It’s not even available in a particularly alluring range of other colours: just this, “cloud blue” and “cosmic grey”. And, while both the rear and front are coated with Gorilla Glass 6, the rear glass seems to be more prone to picking up unsightly fingerprints and grease.

Perhaps the most notable thing to pick out is that the Bixby button no longer sits, unused, on the left edge of the phone – although this is now activated by a long press of the power button. Otherwise, it’s all fairly standard stuff: volume rocker and power button sit on the right edge, the dual-purpose SIM and microSD card tray is on the top edge, the USB-C port and speaker grille are on the bottom and the selfie camera peeks out through a neat hole-punch cutout in the centre of the display just like on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. You don’t get an S-Pen stylus here, however.

Elsewhere, the phone is equipped with a range of suitably high-end features but, again, nothing you wouldn’t expect from one of 2020’s most anticipated smartphones. There’s IP68 dust and water-resistance, which grants submersion in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. An under-screen fingerprint reader and face unlocking allows for quick access without having to tap in a passcode. The phone’s wireless chipset supports 4G and 5G connections along with the latest flavour of super-fast Wi-FI – WiFi 6 – and there’s Bluetooth 5 as well. There’s also wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. This phone pretty much has it all.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review: Display

The screen is the main thing that makes the S20 Plus more expensive than its near-identical sibling, the Galaxy S20. It’s 6.7in across the diagonal, making it 0.5in bigger; that’s quite a lot in the realm of smartphone screens. Aside from that, the screens are similar in specification, though. Both use AMOLED panels, ensuring perfect black level and contrast and both support HDR10+ with a claimed 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. And both have that super-smooth 120Hz panel.

If you’re sceptical about high refresh rate displays in phones, I’d urge you to give it a try in person if you can because it really does make a difference to how a phone feels to use. Menus, web pages and maps – anything that pans or scrolls – fly around with the smoothness of cold butter in a hot Teflon pan.

Our tests (and the evidence of our eyes) suggest that this is a very good display technically as well. In the settings, you have two different options: Natural, which provides coverage of the sRGB gamut at 96.2% and Vivid, which delivers a colour gamut that’s closer to Rec.2020 than it is to DCI-P3. Use this one for HDR playback.

Peak brightness is excellent, reaching 699cd/m2 in normal use and it’s a fabulous display on which to watch your favourite movies and TV shows. Our testing also revealed a peak brightness with HDR material that reaches a far higher 1,209cd/m2. That’s beyond the spec of HDR10 and it means HDR video material looks as it should do, with deep, inky black, subtly distinguished darker tones and blindingly bright specular highlights. 

As a side-by-side comparison with the iPhone 11 Pro Max demonstrates, however, Apple’s reproduction of HDR material is even better. Notably, there’s a much better balance between dimmer parts of the onscreen image and those bright highlights.

In day-to-day use this means you might struggle to see what’s going on in particularly murky HDR scenes on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, whereas that’s rarely the case with the iPhone 11 Pro Max (and, by extension, the iPhone 11 Pro). A win for the iPhone on this count, although the Samsung Galaxy S20’s display is exceptionally good.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review: Performance

As you’d expect from a flagship refresh, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is flush with the very latest silicon. In the case of the UK and European release of the phone, you’re getting Samsung’s 7nm 2.7GHz octa-core Exynos 990 while our US counterparts get the Snapdragon 865.

Performance is pretty swift as a result and, in the benchmarks, the S20 Plus put in a sterling performance. It isn’t quite as swift as the iPhone 11 Pro with its Apple A13 SoC but it’s fast enough to ensure snappy responsiveness in any task.

Among the benefits of that 120Hz display is that, in games that support it, the onscreen framerate can reach much higher than the usual 60fps you get with phones that have 60Hz screens. In the onscreen Manhattan GFXBench test, the S20 Plus achieved an average frame rate of 105fps, which is among the highest we’ve ever seen in this test. (Note: we attempted to retest the OnePlus 7T Pro in this test but it remained capped at 60fps, despite the 90Hz option being selected in the display settings.)

There’s more good news, too: alongside superb performance, battery life is top notch. In our video rundown test, with the display set to 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode enabled, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus lasted an impressive 20hrs 12mins.

Bear in mind, however, that this result was obtained with the phone in its default settings. That is with the resolution set to FHD+ and the refresh rate at the more standard 60Hz. Bump the settings up to 120Hz and you can expect that figure to nose-dive by at least a couple of hours, which is okay but not quite as impressive.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review: Cameras

There are three imaging cameras on the rear of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: a zoom, a standard wide-angle and an ultra wide-angle. You’re not getting the same spectacular 100x “Space Zoom” (10x optical) as on the S20 Ultra; instead the zoom camera is an f/1.8 64-megapixel 3x optical unit that can digitally zoom to 30x. You’ll mostly be using the main camera, though, and that’s a much more standard-looking 12-megapixel f/1.8 shooter, while the ultra wide-angle camera captures at 12-megapixels and has an aperture of f/2.2.

The fourth “camera”, which sits just below the LED flash, is a 0.3-megapixel “time of flight” module that’s used primarily for measuring depth in a scene so you can more accurately apply background blur when editing.

So, how do these cameras perform? Well, they’re very good but not the best I’ve ever come across. In a side-by-side comparison of shots captured with the iPhone 11 Pro’s 12-megapixel camera (in daylight), I saw a little more contrast and lower noise levels in the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus shots, while the iPhone images looked a touch more natural and neutral overall:

In low light, it’s a different story. This is where the iPhone 11 Pro’s images come to life; they’re more colourful, vivid and true to life and, although the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus’ shots look sharp and full of detail, they are duller and darker:

The ultrawide photographs, in good light, are very good. There’s a touch more stretched-out distortion in the corners than on the iPhone 11 Pro but the image is, overall, a little cleaner and crisper with, again, less noise:

As for the zoom, well that’s where the S20 Plus begins to stretch out a lead. You’re getting more optical magnification with the S20 Plus than the iPhone 11 Pro Max and, thus, more detail. Although the Samsung’s photos are a little lacking in contrast here, it’s the clear winner:

The difference between the two becomes even more obvious when you compare maximum zooms – 30x hybrid for the S20 Plus and 10x digital for the iPhone 11 Pro. The Samsung uses its camera’s superior 64-megapixel resolution here to improve digitally zoomed photographs and the end result is plainly superior, although – again – the S20 Plus’ zoomed-in image is a touch lacking in contrast:

The key thing to consider here, however, is that at 30x, although it’s impressive how much detail you can see in the image, neither photo is particularly pleasant to look at. Even if you zoom in only by a factor of ten, photos look mushy and lacking in detail.

Video recording is a similar story. Just like the Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus gives you the ability to record in 8K resolution at 30fps, which looks great if you use a tripod or a gimbal (stabilisation isn’t available at this resolution). However, viewing this footage is only practical if you own an 8K TV.

Again, you’re better off shooting in 4K, which is also packed with detail, but even here there are limitations. While you can shoot at a smooth 60fps, you’re limited to 30fps if you want a stabilised shot. The iPhone, for comparison, can shoot at 4K in 60fps fully stabilised. Another notable win for Apple.

Finally, to the front-facing selfie camera, which is a basic 10-megapixel, f/2.2 unit and produces rather soft images lacking in detail and with a rather strange pinkish hue. All in all, it’s not a good look:

Elsewhere, there are some nice features to play around with in the camera app, notably the Single Take function, which captures a series of video clips and still images from a quick pan of the camera, then presents them all in a tiled view.

Suffice to say, however, overall the images captured with the S20 Plus’ cameras are a bit of a mixed bag. The ultrawide and main cameras are excellent but low light performance is a little underwhelming. The hybrid zoom is impressive but you’re better off sticking with optical for the best quality. Video capture is great but you can’t shoot at 60fps in 4K fully stabilised and the selfie camera is rather average.

The cameras are better than the OnePlus 7T Pro for overall image quality but, if you’re buying a phone purely for the camera and don’t have a preference for either Apple or Android, I’d recommend the iPhone 11 Pro as the superior option.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Pro review: Verdict

If you do want to stick with Android, though, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus still makes a fine choice. The display, features, battery life and performance are all top notch and, although the camera can’t quite beat the iPhone 11 Pro for all-round performance (or the pricier S20 Ultra), there isn’t a massive amount of difference. You’ll be happy with the results, either way.

Ultimately, you’ll be choosing the Galaxy S20 Plus because you want the best an Android phone has to offer but can’t quite justify the £200 extra for the Ultra. If you do that you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t expect to be blown away.

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