02/07/2020

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Galaxy S20 Plus review: The best of both worlds

In Samsung’s Galaxy S20 world, the S20 Plus is most in need of an identity. Smack dab in the middle of the smaller, cheaper Galaxy S20 and the gargantuan Galaxy S20 Ultra (with an eye-watering price tag to match), the S20 Plus has very little to differentiate itself from the other two. Pricing starts at $1,199, £999 and AU$1,499. 

Like

  • Large, brilliant screen
  • Excellent camera image quality
  • Supports fastest 5G speeds

Don’t Like

  • Expensive
  • Thick, heavy, unrefined

The S20 Plus’ two main assets are the 6.7-inch screen (larger than the standard S20’s 6.2-inch display), and the fact that it supports the fastest 5G speeds, using mmWave technology. With the exception of Verizon’s unreleased model, the Galaxy S20 taps into a slower version of 5G called Sub-6. 

There’s a smattering of other perks. The S20 Plus has a larger battery than the S20 (but smaller than the Ultra), which in our looping video test lasted 21 hours in airplane mode and 17 hours, 15 minutes in our Wi-Fi test that simulates real-world use. That’s when using the default 60Hz screen refresh rate.

Unlike the S20, the Plus gives you an option to buy a 512GB variant. The larger model (along with the Ultra) also has a time-of-flight sensor in the camera module that’s designed to enrich low light shots, but doesn’t seem to affect photography in a meaningful way.

The S20 Plus hits a sweet spot for some

So, what about the S20 Ultra? Should you just go big as you can? No, you shouldn’t… in fact, I’d skip it altogether. Starting at $1,399, £1,199 and AU$1,999 for the 128GB version, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is crazy expensive. Battery life was a few minutes worse than the S20 Plus in both our lab tests, despite a larger 5,000-mAh battery. It’s also thicker and heavier to use, the camera module sticks out more and the benefits of a 108-megapixel main camera and 100x telephoto zoom are minimal for all but the most specialized shots. Between the S20 Ultra and the S20 Plus, go with the Plus. 

I’m more on the fence when it comes to the S20 versus the Plus. If you don’t mind a smaller phone and don’t care about 5G, the standard S20 is the one for you. Most people will get what they need to from the standard S20, for $200 less than what you pay for the Plus. But of the two phones, the Plus is more convenient when you want a larger viewing screen, and the keyboard won’t feel as tight as the S20’s if you have larger hands. 

Photography is excellent, battery life will take you from morning to night, and it’s packed with all the essential features found in Samsung’s S20 trio. I also appreciate its full-throttle 5G support. Yes, justifying the S20 Plus’ pricing is a challenge for me, especially because I personally prefer the S20’s smaller frame. But for me, all the Galaxy S20 phones cost more than they need to. 

The S20 Plus has a gorgeous 6.7-inch display, which is excellent for watching video and reading comfortably.


Angela Lang/CNET

While I enjoy the power and performance that the S20s bring, I’m looking ahead to the Galaxy Note 20 for a lighter, more refined look and feel that I miss having switched from the Note 10 Plus. Samsung’s bold, redefined S20 Plus is on the right track. The next step is to perfect and refine.

You’ll find the Galaxy S20, Plus and Ultra comparison specs below. For all the differences between the S20 and S20 Plus, see my rated Galaxy S20 review. This Galaxy S20 Ultra review goes into greater detail about how the 120Hz screen, Single Take photography and 8K video work.

samsung-galaxy-s20-plus-s20-9905

The Galaxy S20 Plus, right, alongside the standard S20.


Angela Lang/CNET

Galaxy S20 vs S20 Plus vs S20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Display size, resolution 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Pixel density 563ppi 525ppi 511ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.72×5.97×0.311 in 2.9×6.37×0.30 in 2.99×6.57×0.35 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 69.1×151.7×7.9mm 73.7×161.9×7.8mm 76.0 x 166.9 x 8.8mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.75 oz; 163g 6.56 oz; 186g 7.76 oz; 220g
Mobile software Android 10 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 10-megapixel 40-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K 8K
Processor 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB
RAM 12GB 12GB 12GB, 16GB
Expandable storage Up to 1TB Up to 1TB Up to 1TB
Battery 4,000mAh 4,500mAh 5,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No No
Special features 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $999 $1,199 $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £799, £899 (5G) £999 (5G) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,349 (4G), AU$1,499 (5G), AU$1,499 (4G), AU$1,649 (128GB), AU$1,899 (512GB) AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB)