Samsung just unveiled the Galaxy S20 range at its Galaxy Unpacked event, with three new phones culminating in the absurdly over-specced S20 Ultra. But for my money, it’s the regular S20 that would, well, get my money.
Omitting the S11s through 19, Samsung is keen to push the S20 range as the start of a new age for the company - it’s a whole 10 better than last year’s phone, after all - touting headline features like 100x zoom, a 120Hz refresh rate display, 8K video recording, and 5G support across the range.
If previous years are anything to go by it’ll be the high-end Ultra that Samsung pushes across its marketing and plasters across billboards worldwide (joined no doubt by the foldable Z Flip), but all of those key features - except the 100x zoom - can be found in the base S20 model for hundreds less.
In person, it’s comfortably the most attractive of the three. The design hasn’t changed too much from last year - though omits the headphone jack (boo) and Bixby button (yay) - and is improved slightly by the move to a smaller, central pinhole camera. Samsung still saves the best of its engineering expertise for the S-range, and this is the rare phone that looks and feels better in the flesh than it does in the company's polished product renders.
And sure, the S20+ and Ultra look similar, but as the screens get bigger so do the camera bumps and the bulk, and they can’t help but feel less sleek and polished as a result. The S20+ is now pushing right up against last year's Note 10+ in sheer scale, while the Ultra dwarfs either - and it's not like the 6.2in S20 is petite in itself, but at least it feels more like a phone than a potential murder weapon.
You’ll still get the latest processor - either the Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990, depending on region - paired with your choice of 8GB or 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (still expandable with up to 1TB extra via microSD). That’s a specs-heavy way of saying that this thing will still be faster than almost any other phone on the market, and a noticeable step up from last year’s S10.
But the S10+ will be even faster, right? Well, not really. It comes with 12GB RAM as standard, and does at least give the option of 512GB storage (though the UK isn’t even getting that model). It’s bigger, obviously, but display quality is exactly the same and the only other real spec bumps are a larger battery and the addition of a depth sensor to the otherwise identical camera set-up.
The standard S20 still gets an impressive triple-lens array, with a 12Mp wide lens, a second 12Mp ultra-wide, and a 64Mp telephoto that delivers crisp hybrid optical zoom up to 3x and much less crisp digital zoom as far as 30x. Sure, that’s some way short of the ‘100x Space Zoom’ of the S20 Ultra, but I speak from experience: for a decent shot at 100x you’ll need much steadier hands than I have.
As for the rest of the Ultra, just don’t even. Sure, you can get 16GB of RAM and a whopping 108Mp camera sensor to power that zoom, but you don’t need either, and no spec bump is worth the burden of carrying round a 220g brick with a 6.9in display and a camera bump that’s almost as thick as the phone itself. The Ultra is simply too big, and only die-hard specs obsessives are likely to find much to love there.
The S20 is by no means a cheap phone - it’s still a Samsung flagship, after all - but when the full set launches on March 13 (or 6 March in the US) this is clearly where you get the most bang for your buck, at "just" £800/$1000. There will also be some great deals to be found. With top internal specs and a build that’s big without being a beast, this is the S-range sweet spot. And in the UK you can even still get in 4G, making it the default choice for anyone worried that 5G is going to melt all our brains.