Samsung's new S20 phones raise the bar on display, camera zoom, start from $1,298

The South Korean tech giant announced three new models for its Galaxy series – the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra – with improved displays and cameras as well as 5G capabilities.
At its Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco on Feb 11, 2020, Samsung announced three new models to its Galaxy series – the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra – each improving on their S10 predecessors in three key areas: display, cameras and being
At its Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco on Feb 11, 2020, Samsung announced three new models to its Galaxy series – the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra – each improving on their S10 predecessors in three key areas: display, cameras and being 5G-ready.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

SAN FRANCISCO - Samsung's new Galaxy S20 phones, which the company unveiled in San Francisco on Tuesday (Feb 11), tick all the boxes that consumers are looking for.

They are an extension of a tried and tested formula featuring, among many things, crystal clear displays and multiple cameras with up to 100x zoom and artificial intelligence (AI) features.

The three S20 variants - S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra - are 5G-enabled, allowing consumers to connect to the next generation mobile network that promises surfing speeds 20 times faster than what 4G networks offer.

Consumers in Singapore will have to settle for the 4G variants for the S20 and S20+, however.

Pre-orders for the Galaxy S20 phones start on Wednesday (Feb 12) at 1pm from local telcos, Samsung's online store, selected consumer electronics stores and e-commerce platforms (Lazada and Shopee). The phones will be available from Mar 6.

The 6.2-inch S20 (in grey, blue and pink) is priced at $1,298. The 6.7-inch S20+ (in grey, black and blue) is priced at $1,498. The 6.9-inch 5G-capable S20 Ultra (in grey and black) is priced at $1,898.

The basic S20 comes with a 6.2-inch display and triple rear cameras, while the 6.7-inch S20+ and 6.9-inch S20 Ultra boast four rear cameras.

All three are capable of shooting video in 8K resolution which offers four times the number of pixels as 4K, allowing users to see in even clearer detail the complexion of their favourite movie stars, for example.

The S20+ adds a depth vision camera to the S20's 12MP ultra wide camera, 12MP wide angle camera and 64MP telephoto camera. This is an improvement on the S10's 16MP ultra wide, 12MP wide and 12MP telephoto cameras respectively.

Generally, a higher megapixel count on a camera means a greater amount of detail can be captured in an image.

The S20 Ultra, on the other hand, sports a 108MP wide angle camera to go with the depth vision camera, 12MP ultra wide and 48MP telephoto camera. This set-up makes for higher zoom and better performance under low light.

 

On paper at least, the Ultra's 108MP camera compares very favourably with its competitor iPhone 11 Pro's 12MP equivalent.

The Ultra also offers a 100x Space Zoom function. Comparatively, Chinese rival Huawei's P30 Pro released last year could only zoom up to 50x.


At its Galaxy Unpacked event in San Francisco on Feb 11, 2020, Samsung announced three new models to its Galaxy series – the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra – each improving on their S10 predecessors in three key areas: display, cameras and being 5G-ready. PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Meanwhile, the newly-unveiled S20 and S20+ can zoom in up to 30x.

I tested the Ultra's zoom feature at the hands-on event on Tuesday (Feb 11). The zoomed-in image was indeed impressive albeit slightly grainy. But I wonder how the phone will perform in the field since it was mounted on a tripod during the hands-on session.

A key new feature is Single Take, which uses AI to automatically capture images and videos from different camera angles and with different effects such as speeding up a sequence or reversing it.

The user takes a single shot, with the AI doing the rest. Along with my media colleagues whom I was seated with at the event, I was told to wave by the Samsung presenter who panned the S20 camera across the room.

From this one take the S20 produced about 10 shots of us waving at varying angles such as a wide shot and a close-up.

All three S20 models also offer remarkably clear images with a 120hz screen refresh rate, which helps enhance gaming experience on the phones in particular.

Consumers will be able to choose from grey, blue and pink for the S20. The S20+ has a black option instead of pink, while the Ultra only comes in black and grey.

I was also looking forward to testing the vertically folding Z Flip, but it did not make an appearance at the hands-on media event.

Instead, what did appear were the Galaxy Buds+ earphones, but I did not have the time to test their audio quality. Samsung says the earphones have an 11-hour battery life and 3 mics.

The S20 models raise the bar on what is tried and tested. But with consumers increasingly taking such excellence for granted, it remains a tall order for all smartphone makers to break new ground.