Samsung will open preorders for its Galaxy S20 lineup on Feb. 21. The trio of phones are similar, yet unique with their own features.
The S20 Ultra is unapologetically big, expensive and powerful. The standard S20 can surely get the job done and will save you money. But, the Galaxy S20+ is likely the device that most people should buy, once they get over the price shock of the entire lineup.
You can preorder the Galaxy S20 for $999, the S20+ for $1,1990 or the S20 Ultra for $1,399 starting on Feb. 21. They’ll be available in stores starting March 6, the same day shipments are expected to arrive.
The core of the S20 lineup is the same
The three Galaxy S20 models have more in common than you might think.
For example, all three phones use the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, start with 128GB of storage and 12GB of memory, have expandable storage via a MicroSD card slot, and use Samsung’s Quad HD+ AMOLED displays with a 120Hz refresh rate.
It’s the first time we’ve seen a smartphone with a refresh rate of 120Hz, which should lead to smoother scrolling and an improved gaming experience.
Naturally, there are differences between the three models.
The most notable is the size of each phone. The S20 has a display that measures 6.2 inches, the S20+ display is 6.7 inches, and the S20 Ultra’s screen measures 6.9 inches.
With larger displays, come larger batteries. The S20’s battery is 4,000 milliamp hours. The S20+ battery is 4,500 milliamp-hours and the S20 Ultra is 5,000 milliamp hours.
In addition, there are two more notable areas where the S20 lineup diverges: 5G compatibility and the camera.
Not all 5G is created equal
Forget the difference in screen and battery size, and setting aside the camera capabilities, the biggest difference between the Galaxy S20 and the rest of the lineup is the phone’s 5G connectivity.
All three variants have the components to connect to 5G networks, the first time Samsung has included 5G across its flagship lineup.
However, not all 5G networks are created equal.
Without getting too nerdy, I’ll try to summarize the differences.
In the U.S., there are two main types of 5G networks. They are Sub-6 and millimeter-wave (mmWave).
A Sub-6 5G network is a faster version of the LTE networks we use and is wider reaching than mmWave. A mmWave network is faster, with multi-gigabit speeds and low latency, but each tower is only capable of covering a few city blocks and has trouble penetrating buildings or homes.
When carriers talk about the promise of 5G connectivity and the improvements to technology it will deliver, they’re talking about mmWave-type connections. Don’t get me wrong, Sub-6 5G is an improvement over LTE, but mmWave 5G is what the carriers are working toward.
Sprint’s 5G network is all Sub-6. AT&T and T-Mobile have both Sub-6 and mmWave 5G networks deployed, while Verizon is solely mmWave.
So, only the Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra come with the necessary components to connect to both the Sub-6 and mmWave 5G networks. The standard S20 only has Sub-6 connectivity.
At launch, you won’t have the option to buy a Galaxy S20 if you’re a Verizon Wireless customer. You’ll have to wait until later this year when Verizon rolls out its Sub-6 5G network.
In other words, regardless of which Galaxy S20 you buy, you’ll get 5G connectivity. But only the S20+ and S20 Ultra will be able to give you gigabit speeds, as long as your carrier supports them, of course.
The Ultra’s camera is intense
Samsung made a big deal about the camera improvements customers would see with the S20 lineup. But the camera experience will be determined by which Galaxy S20 model you buy.
The Galaxy S20 and S20+ have the same core three-camera setup, with the latter having an additional Depth Vision sensor. There’s a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera, a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and a 64-megapixel telephoto camera. Both phones have a Super Resolution Zoom of up to 30x.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle, a 108-megapixel wide angle, a 48-megapixel telephoto camera and a Depth Vision camera.
The Depth Vision camera is used in the S20+ and the Ultra to better detect objects in photos, as well as create 3D scans of objects using certain apps.
More notably, the Ultra’s camera setup has up to a 100x hybrid zoom. That means you can zoom in on a building tucked away in the skyline or clear across the soccer field for a close-up of your favorite player.
The front-facing camera on the S20 and S20+ is 10 megapixels and the S20 Ultra is 40 megapixels.
For the most part, the camera experience between the S20 and S20+ is going to be similar. The added depth camera will improve portrait photos and allow for cool tricks in certain apps, but in everyday use, you probably won’t notice much of a difference.
It’s the S20 Ultra, however, where the camera experience should vastly improve. Between the 108MP main camera and the 100x hybrid zoom, the Ultra’s camera setup is designed for someone who wants the best smartphone camera tools at their disposal. But it’ll cost you.
The bottom line
Ultimately, your buying decision may come down to how much you want to spend on a phone. The S20 starts at $999, the S20+ is $1,199 and the Ultra is $1,399. The thought of paying $999 versus paying $1,399 for a phone might simply be too much, and I can’t blame you.
The S20 Ultra is as good as Samsung has, and for early adopters, tech enthusiasts and avid photographers who want to have access to the latest camera tricks Samsung has to offer — it’s perfect.
But for those who want Samsung’s latest Galaxy phone, the S20 and S20+ are fine options. For the most part, the experience between all three phones will be nearly identical, save for a few key features.
I’m inclined to lean toward the S20+ as a way of future-proofing its 5G capabilities. I don’t know when my carrier will roll out 5G to my area, nor do I know which flavor of 5G coverage I’ll have. With support for both 5G network types, the S20+ will ensure access to your carrier’s (or future carrier’s) 5G network.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.