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Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review (hands on)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus delivers a big 6.7-inch screen, a highly advanced camera and 5G for a premium price.

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

For

  • Impressive 64MP telephoto lens
  • Single Take camera mode is fun
  • Massive, 6.7-inch display with 120-Hz refresh rate
  • Supports all 5G network types
  • Huge, 4,500-mAh battery

Against

  • Very expensive
  • 120-Hz refresh rate doesn't work at full resolution

The 6.7-inch Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is an Android phone that has almost everything in the top-line 6.9-inch Galaxy S20 Ultra model, Buyers get a quartet of lenses on the Galaxy S20 Plus, headlined by a 64-MP telephoto with 3x lossless zoom. Unlike the regular Galaxy S20, the S20 Plus also boasts full support for 5G — every 5G network, no matter which carrier you're on — a Snapdragon 865 processor with a whopping 12GB of RAM and a 120-Hz, quad-HD AMOLED display.

Could that land the Galaxy S20 Plus on our list of the best phones on the market? You'll have to wait a little longer for our verdict on that. Until then, follow along for our initial impressions in our Galaxy S20 Plus hands-on review. This phone may just hit the sweet spot of specs and pricing best among Samsung's 2020 flagships. 

Galaxy S20 Plus price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus will set you back $1,199. It's now available for pre-order, and it lands in stores March 6. For the $1,119 starting price, you'll get 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, though you'll be able to upgrade to 512GB for an extra $150.

Regardless, even if you don't opt for the 512GB version, you can always insert a microSD card into the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus or S20 Ultra to give your phone up to another terabyte of storage.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus can be purchased through each of the big four U.S. networks — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — and will presumably make its way to discount carriers and MVNOs in time.

If you're looking to reserve a phone for yourself, be sure to check out our guide on how to preorder the Galaxy S20. Some retailers and carriers are offering goodies, such as gift cards and additional credit toward a new S20 when you trade in your current smartphone. Anyone interested in snapping up one of Samsung's latest flagships for the least expense possible should have a look out for the best Galaxy S20 deals before pulling the trigger.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus specs

PriceFrom $1,199
Display6.7-inch quad-HD AMOLED; 120-Hz refresh rate
Rear cameras 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)
Video Up to 8K resolution at 24 fps
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM12GB
Storage 128GB, 512GB
microSD Yes, up to 1TB
Battery4,500 mAh
Size 6.37 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.56 ounces

Galaxy S20 Plus design and colors

Samsung's gone for the iterative approach with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus' design, relocating the Galaxy S10's front-facing camera to the middle, just like what you'll find on the Galaxy Note 10, while stacking the rear optics vertically in an elongated, rectangular housing.

Galaxy S20 (left) and Galaxy S20 Plus (right)

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

The edges of the phone's Infinity display aren't as steeply curved as the edges were on the last three Galaxy S handsets. However, the S20 Plus' rounded frame and camera-in-screen aesthetic still make it instantly recognizable as a Samsung product.

Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra (from left to right)

Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra (from left to right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S20 Plus will come in three colors: Cloud Blue, Cosmic Gray and Cosmic Black. Personally, this feels like a step back to me; the S10 line was available in a wide range of unique and bold colors — from the iridescent Prism White to stunning Flamingo Pink — and the hues that Samsung's gone for here feel drab and uninspired by comparison. Perhaps they'll look better in natural light.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the 6.9-inch Galaxy S20 Ultra is a juggernaut among flagship phones, and the 6.2-inch Galaxy S20 carves a moderately compact footprint despite its large display, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus' proportions make it feel pretty ordinary in the hand. At 6.37 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches and 6.56 ounces, it's smaller in every sense than the iPhone 11 Pro Max (6.2 x 3.1 x 0.32 inches, 7.97 ounces), even though the display in Apple's biggest iPhone is two-tenths of an inch smaller.

Galaxy S20 Plus cameras

You won't be getting Samsung's crown jewel 108MP main camera in the S20 Plus or regular S20. That shooter is reserved for the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Buyers who opt for the cheaper Galaxy handsets will also miss out on the Ultra model's 10x hybrid optical "lossless" zoom and 100x digital Space Zoom.

Galaxy S20 Ultra (left) and Galaxy S20 Plus (right)

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

So what do you get in the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus? Most of the time, you'll be relying on a 12MP primary lens with an f/1.8 aperture; a 64MP telephoto with f/2.0 aperture capable of 3x optical zoom; a 12MP ultrawide lens with f/2.2 aperture; and a VGA time-of-flight depth sensor, which will assist with live photos and other effects.

MORE: Galaxy S20 Ultra vs. S20 Plus: All the differences explained

One point to specify about that optical zoom lens: It isn't actually a zoom lens in a traditional sense. The focal length is similar to that of the main camera, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus merely crops into the center of the frame to achieve the 3x effect. This was presumably done to avoid a permanently zoomed-in perspective when recording video, because the same 64MP sensor will also be tasked with 8K capture.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

What's more, you won't hear me crying over the lack of a 100x zoom mode on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. While it's technically impressive that Samsung has pulled this off on the S20 Ultra, trying to keep a steady hand when shooting at that kind of power is nigh impossible. You'll definitely need a tripod, and at the distance associated with such a zoom, the fully digital zoom won't produce the crispest shot under any circumstances, anyway.

Although we haven't yet had a great deal of hands-on time with the Galaxy S20 Plus' camera, I'd wager that this cocktail of optics should be enough to achieve good results, even in spite of that 108MP shooter's absence. Megapixel count takes you only so far anyway. And considering that the S20 Ultra actually blends nine pixels into one under most circumstances to produce a 12MP output, Samsung's post-processing algorithms and software will likely ultimately determine how good these cameras really are.

Single Take on a Galaxy S20 Ultra

Single Take on a Galaxy S20 Ultra (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Speaking of software, one of our favorite standout features of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus so far is Single Take, a mode that captures various types of media through all of the phone's lenses in one shot, so you can then select the one you prefer after the fact. This figures to be a really useful tool that eliminates the tedium of taking the same photo multiple times using different cameras and effects. With one tap, the S20 Plus will produce wide and ultrawide shots, as well as a bokeh-effect Live Focus portrait and two videos at regular and faster speeds, which can then be easily shared as GIFs, if you like.

On the front, the S20 Plus packs the same 10MP, f/2.2 sensor as in the normal S20. You can look forward to an upcoming camera showdown between the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and Ultra to determine what you're really missing in the cheaper phone. But overall, it seems there's still plenty for mobile photographers to be excited for here.

Galaxy S20 Plus display

All three Galaxy phones feature quad-HD AMOLED displays with 120-Hz refresh rates. They're the first 120-Hz panels Samsung has ever fitted to its phones, and the one in the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus specifically measures 6.7 inches from corner to corner.

Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra (from left to right)

Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra (from left to right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Most smartphone screens employ 60-Hz refresh rates; 120-Hz means animations are doubly smooth, because contents on screen are updated twice as often. Samsung has also doubled the panel's touch sampling rate to 240 Hz, making these latest Galaxy handsets feel more responsive than ever.

While most games won't make full use of the faster refresh rate, Samsung tells us that Forza Street, by Microsoft, will be updated to take advantage of the capability. Otherwise, you'll certainly feel the difference when thumbing around the One UI interface and third-party apps; navigating Android just feels so much more immediate at 120 Hz.

There is, however, a downside. To achieve that 120-Hz animation, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus makes the compromise of scaling back the display resolution to full HD, which is below the native quad HD of the panel. That translates to text and graphics that look a bit blurrier than you'd expect.

Still, you're free to ratchet up the resolution to quad HD, but then you'll fall back to ordinary 60-Hz animations. This limitation was ostensibly done to limit drain on battery life, as increases in both resolution and refresh rate can reduce longevity on a charge. And even though previous Samsung handsets defaulted to full-HD resolution, despite also shipping with quad HD screens, the trade-off is still somewhat disappointing.

Galaxy S20 Plus 5G and performance

Although Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865 processor is sure to wind up in a number of premium Android handsets throughout 2020, you'll find it first in the Galaxy S20 line. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus buyers also get a generous 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, though they have the option to increase capacity to up to 512GB as well.

The addition of the 865 chip also means that the Galaxy S20 Plus supports 5G data. And unlike the standard Galaxy S20 — which can connect only to lower-speed, broad-coverage, sub-6GHz 5G — the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra can connect to the faster, albeit shorter-range millimeter wave (mmWave) networks as well.

Each of the major U.S. carriers offers a slightly different mix of 5G infrastructure (AT&T and T-Mobile focus on low band, Sprint on midband and Verizon on mmWave). This means that no matter which carrier you use, you'll get some version of 5G coverage on the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra.

Galaxy S20 Plus battery life and charging

Samsung's gifted the Galaxy S20 Plus with a big battery to keep that powerful processor, souped-up display and all those camera lenses humming along.

At 4,500 mAh, the Plus variant's battery equals the capacity of the one inside last year's Galaxy S10 5G. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus also ships with a 25-watt fast charger, which should get the S20 Plus juiced back up relatively quickly. However, those who need more speed can opt for Samsung's 45-watt brick, which is sold separately and retails for $49.

Galaxy S20 Plus software

All Galaxy S20 phones come with Samsung’s new One UI 2 software, which streamlines the interface to make it easier to jump into your favorite apps, change settings and more. This rides on top of Android 10, which includes great new features like Smart Reply, a dark mode and better privacy controls. 

Samsung is also trying to build better experiences into the S20 line, starting with Google Duo integration. Google’s answer to FaceTime, this video chat app is built right into the phone dialer and contacts apps, and you can video chat with up to 8 people. Plus, you can video chat in full HD for the first time.

Other software features include Music Share for sharing out your Bluetooth connection to your car (so someone else can control the playlist for a while) and Spotify integration with Bixby routines, so your Galaxy will recommend playlists based on your preference and even the moment of the day.

Outlook

After largely resisting the recent trend toward pricier flagships, Samsung has thrown caution to the wind with the S20 trio, releasing the most advanced smartphones it has ever made. And while the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus may not have the S20 Ultra's attention-grabbing 108MP main camera, it has enough of everything else — the quartet of lenses, the top-of-the-line processor, the roomy screen and the comprehensive 5G support — that it could wind up being a better value than that range-topping model.

That said, $1,199 is a steep price no matter how you slice it, so stay tuned for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus to find out if it's worth the splurge.