Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus: Which phone should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S20 (left) and Galaxy S20 Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Gone are the days when you could simply walk into a store, ask for the latest Galaxy and walk out satisfied with a stunning new smartphone. For the Samsung Galaxy S20 line, there aren’t just two models, but three: the $999 S20, the $1,199 Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and the $1,399 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.

If you’re interested in a new Samsung flagship but don’t want to spend top dollar, you’ll want to give both the 6.2-inch S20 and 6.7-inch S20 Plus a closer look. Both devices actually share a lot of similarities, with the main differences reserved for their battery and display sizes, as well as their 5G connectivity. 

But which Samsung phone is the best for you? Our Galaxy S20 versus Galaxy S20 Plus face-off will help you make that choice.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Price

The Galaxy S20 costs $999, while the larger Galaxy S20 Plus starts at $1,199. Both devices come with 12GB of RAM, as well as 128GB of storage that can be expanded through the use of a microSD card. However, the S20 Plus can also be configured with 512GB of onboard storage for an extra $150.

Something to note on the topic of availability: While the Galaxy S20 Plus is sold by all four major U.S. carriers, the Galaxy S20 initially wasn't available through Verizon. Then, several months after the phone's spring launch, the smallest S20 arrived at Big Red, in a new configuration called the Galaxy S20 5G UW that is equipped to take advantage of Verizon's millimeter-wave 5G network. This version is otherwise identical with the others, save for the fact it has 8GB of RAM instead of 12GB.

Samsung is giving customers up to $500 off a new Galaxy S20 with the trade-in of their existing phone. Check out our regularly-updated list of the best Galaxy S20 deals for the best opportunities to save. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy S20Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
Price $999 From $1,199
Display (Resolution; Max. refresh rate)6.2-inch AMOLED (3200x1440; 120 Hz) 6.7-inch AMOLED (3200x1440; 120 Hz)
Rear CameraTriple-lens: 12MP primary (ƒ/1.8); 64MP telephoto with 3x lossless zoom (ƒ/2.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2)Quad-lens: 12MP primary (ƒ/1.8); 64MP telephoto with 3x lossless zoom (ƒ/2.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); VGA time of flight
Front Camera10MP (ƒ/2.2)10MP (ƒ/2.2)
CPUSnapdragon 865Snapdragon 865
Storage128GB128GB, 512GB
microSD slot?Yes; up to 1TBYes; up to 1TB
Battery Size4,000 mAh4,500 mAh
Water resistanceIP68IP68
Size5.9 x 3 x 0.31 inches6.37 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight5.7 ounces6.56 ounces

 Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Design

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

From left to right: Samsung Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus look functionally the same, except for the difference in size. The S20 Plus’ display is half an inch larger on the diagonal compared to the standard S20’s, and you can feel the difference when holding the bigger phone.

The S20 Plus also weighs a bit more, tipping the scales at 6.56 ounces, compared to the 5.7 ounces of the smaller version. If you prefer more compact handsets, the regular Galaxy S20 is definitely going to be more your cup of tea. It’s not the smallest device in the world, but it’s certainly more pocketable compared to the Plus model (and that’s to say nothing of the gargantuan Galaxy S20 Ultra.)

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, some will appreciate the extra real estate of the S20 Plus’ 6.7-inch AMOLED panel for playing games and watching content. The experience on the 6.2-inch S20 isn’t cramped by any means, but the S20 Plus’ additional room could go a long way for power users.

There is one other small design discrepancy between the models Galaxy buyers should be wary of, and that’s the colors each device comes in. The smaller S20 is available in gray, pink and blue, while the S20 Plus does not come in pink, but does come in black. Still, no matter which Galaxy you buy, you won’t get a headphone jack, as Samsung has finally ditched that useful port with its latest flagships.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Display

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 (left) and Galaxy S20 Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Again, this is a case where the S20 and S20 Plus compare favorably with each other (save for the size element, of course). Both feature Samsung’s latest, most advanced Dynamic AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate and a resolution of 3,200 x 1,440 pixels.

Because the 6.2-inch S20’s screen is smaller, the pixel density is higher on that model — 563 pixels-per-inch, versus 523 ppi for the S20 Plus. That means text will look a bit sharper on the more compact device.

Both phones’ displays can get extremely bright, with the S20 recording 857 nits under our light meter, and the S20 Plus reaching 847 nits. Those are the brightest screens we’ve ever tested on any smartphone, well exceeding the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 761 nits.

It’s perhaps no surprise that animations look silky smooth when these phones’ panels are set to run at 120Hz, though the energy drain of the faster refresh rate means you’ll be sacrificing longevity on a charge as a tradeoff; more on that in our section on the Galaxy S20 battery.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 (Image credit: Future)

Unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which incorporates an exclusive 108-megapixel primary sensor and 48-MP telephoto lens with 10x lossless zoom, the multi-lens camera modules on the S20 and S20 Plus are largely identical, and take similar photos.

We say “largely” because the S20 Plus does have one sensor in its repertoire that the cheaper device doesn’t: a VGA time-of-flight sensor that assists with measuring the distance to objects in your surrounding environment. This is especially useful when taking shallow depth-of-field bokeh portraits, where accurate separation between the foreground and background are critical.

You can see the difference that time-of-flight sensor makes in the above Live Focus portrait I captured of my colleague Mark in Grand Central Station. The detail and metering surrounding Mark’s face is pretty even across both photos, but the regular S20’s attempt has a hard time preventing the bright lights in the background from bleeding into the foreground and obscuring the sides of his head.

When you’re not using the time-of-flight shooter, however, the photo results produced by either S20 model are pretty much indistinguishable. We snapped another pair of pics within Grand Central — this time using the phones’ ultrawide lenses — and the results speak for themselves. Both S20 devices deftly navigated the brightest and darkest portions of the scene, especially delivering impressive detail within the shadow-cast walls.

The telephoto lens in the S20 and S20 Plus is backed by a 64-MP sensor. Although Samsung will tell you it’s capable of 3x lossless zoom, it’s not true optical zoom because the camera software simply crops further into the center of the frame to achieve that 3x power. As a result, zoomed photos taken on the S20 or S20 Plus aren’t output with the full 64-MP resolution of the sensor.

Ultimately, though, you probably won’t have any complaints about the quality of the images the telephoto produces. The results are impressive, especially given that most phone makers settle for just 2x optical zoom, which obviously isn’t as useful when shooting a subject from a distance.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both the S20 and S20 Plus feature 10-MP front-facing cameras with ƒ/2.2 apertures, so there won’t be any differences between the selfies you snap depending on the model you opt for.

Finally, all Galaxy S20 models can record video at a maximum resolution of 8K and 24 frames-per-second. You probably won’t want to shoot in this mode though, given the tremendous amount of space it consumes (Samsung estimates it ends up being roughly 600MB for every minute) as well as the strain it puts on the phone’s battery and internals, and the fact you can’t watch 8K video the way it’s intended unless you have one of the rare and uber-expensive 8K TVs currently on the market.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Performance

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Whether you pick up a Galaxy S20 or an S20 Plus, you’re getting Qualcomm’s flagship processor: the Snapdragon 865, along with 12GB of RAM. (Except for that Verizon edition of the S20, with 8GB.)

As such, you shouldn’t expect any difference in performance; both of these phones can handle the most-demanding games, from Fortnite to Asphalt 9, at high resolutions and framerates without getting overly taxed. They’re about neck-and-neck in benchmarks as well, with the smaller S20 notching a Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 3,147, and the S20 Plus delivering 3,076.

Likewise, in 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 graphics test, Samsung’s handsets turned in very similar showings: 7,081 and 7,061 for the smaller and larger models, respectively.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Battery life

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 (Image credit: Future)

Here’s one area where S20 Plus buyers can expect an advantage over their regular S20-toting peers. Samsung has fitted the larger of the two flagships with a bigger battery to accommodate its roomier display and millimeter-wave connectivity. Where the 6.2-inch S20 has a 4,000-mAh battery, the S20 Plus has a 4,500-mAh unit.

That means you can expect the S20 Plus to last a little longer on a charge — something our internal evaluation validated. We’re still conducting additional battery tests on both phones, but the S20 Plus lasted 10 hours and 31 minutes on Tom’s Guide’s custom battery test, where phones endlessly load webpages over a mobile network while set to 150 nits of screen brightness. Notably, this session was conducted with the S20 Plus set to its 60Hz mode; at 120Hz, it only lasted 8 hours and 55 minutes.

The smaller Galaxy S20 didn’t last as long. At 60Hz, it ran out of juice after 9 hours and 31 minutes. At 120Hz, it took just 8 hours and 4 minutes before giving up the ghost. If you’re keen on taking advantage of that faster refresh rate, or you simply want to maximize your phone’s longevity on a charge, the S20 Plus is clearly the way to go.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: 5G connectivity

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While both the Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus technically support 5G, there’s a big difference in the kind of 5G networks they connect to. While the S20 Plus is sold on every carrier and will work on all of their 5G networks — whether sub-6GHz or millimeter wave (mmWave) — the regular S20 lacks mmWave support on AT&T and T-Mobile.

The distinction is important for a few reasons. First off, mmWave networks operate quite differently from sub-6GHz ones, in that they deliver extremely fast data speeds but don’t reach far. You have to be outside to access mmWave 5G, within line-of-sight of an antenna and without any physical obstructions in the way.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 (Image credit: Future)

Second, Verizon’s 5G network in particular only consists of mmWave at the moment, which is why Samsung had to make a separate version of the smaller S20 with mmWave support that released several months after the others on T-Mobile and AT&T. This version of the S20 is called the Galaxy S20 5G UW and is exclusively available through Verizon; you can't buy it unlocked.

Regardless, our testing of all S20 models thus far has demonstrated that you don’t need 5G yet. T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network, which relies upon sub-6GHz infrastructure, delivered speeds slower than LTE in New York in some instances, and the times when it improved upon LTE, 5G was only slightly faster.

Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S20 Plus: Verdict

The main reasons you’d want to spend an extra $200 on a Galaxy S20 Plus over the regular Galaxy S20 are its bigger display, longer battery life, slightly better cameras when shooting with depth effects and broader 5G connectivity. But even then, are all of those perks worth the expense?

Well, it depends on your priorities. Unless you’re someone who especially likes big phones, or you’re particularly concerned about battery life, the standard Galaxy S20 is a good-enough Android phone for most people. We don't think you'll miss the mmWave support on those non-Verizon models, as mmWave signals are very limited these days. In all other respects, from performance to display, the smaller S20 is every bit as good as its bigger sibling.

Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.