Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review: Premium phone you can afford

Premium experience at a palatable price!

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This is the Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition). It’s not the most exciting phone of the year, but possibly one of Samsung’s most important. It isn’t awe-inspiring like the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

But what it lacks in its ability to be attention-grabbing, it more than makes up for with its more affordable price point. All while delivering on the most beloved features of the S20 series.

Of course, a cheaper price tag means there has to be compromises somewhere. In this review, we’ll take a look at the choices Samsung made, and whether or not the S20 FE deserves to be a part of this high-end lineup. Or if it’s just a fancy name on a mid-range phone?

Unboxing

Galaxy S20 FE

Unlike the rest of Samsung’s S20 lineup that comes with black boxes, the S20 FE comes in this white box. The text styling is very much the same. If you look closely, there are icons engraved on the box. The packaging order is also pretty standard.

Galaxy S20 FE

Our unit comes in a sleek, Cloud Navy color. If Navy isn’t your thing, there are five more color options to choose from: Red, White, Lavender, Mint, and Orange.

In the box are the SIM tray ejection pin, the usual quick start guide, a 15W travel adapter, and a USB-C to USB-A cable.

Part of the family?

On the outside, you’ll find the Galaxy S20 FE sharing the same design ID as the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra. The same rounded corners, same shaped aluminum frame, same placements for its button ports, and antenna lines.

It also got the same Infinity O display with a punch-hole for the selfie camera. The much loved 120Hz refresh rate is here, as well.

The handset also carries the same top-of-the-line processors: Snapdragon 865 for the 5G variant, and Exynos 990 for the LTE-only model. It has triple cameras, too! Wide, Ultra Wide, 3X Zoom, Night Mode, Pro Mode, and Space Zoom.

Additionally, it has a pretty large battery, stereo speakers, an IP rating for water and dust resistance, and even a micro SD card slot for expandable memory.

Whoever told you plastic is cheap is seriously disturbed

For it to be priced at US$ 300 less than the S20, Samsung had to make cuts, but we think they chose wisely.

First, its body is made of polycarbonate plastic instead of gorilla glass. Plastic, when done right, doesn’t have to look or feel cheap.

Galaxy S20 FE

Just like the Note 20, the S20 FE doesn’t feel nor look cheap, especially with those eye-candy colors.

Of course, the all-glass S20 definitely feels more premium, but slap a case and you wouldn’t notice a difference. But then again, you probably don’t even need a case when a phone has a plastic back.

Learning to compromise

While the S20 FE prides itself on a 120Hz display, its resolution maxes out at Full HD+. It isn’t a deal-breaker though. Even if the first S20 trio all have Quad HD+ displays, you’re stuck at Full HD+ if you want to enjoy that high refresh rate.

Galaxy S20 FE

Speaking of displays, the S20 FE has a flat display — which to some is actually better. It has a 6.5-inch screen that’s slightly larger than the S20, and almost as big as the S20+ because of its larger bezels.

Despite the size, it’s still comfortable for one-handed use. And that bigger screen is always a plus when it comes to watching videos or playing games.

Half the memory

The S20 FE has half the amount of RAM as the regular S20. But it doesn’t mean that it’s lackluster when it comes to its performance. For everyday tasks like surfing, watching YouTube and/or Netflix, or scrolling through Instagram, the RAM size won’t even matter.

Galaxy S20 FE

RAM will only matter when you’re multitasking or when you quickly switch between several open apps, one after the other. Despite the reduced RAM size, it still shares the same top-of-the-line processors as its more expensive siblings. It’s still a heavy lifter, performance-wise.

In fact, the phone worked just like any other during our stint — whether it’s watching Start-Up on Netflix, switching between multiple messaging apps, or playing League of Legends: Wild Rift.

Faster unlock

Instead of using Qualcomm’s Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner, the S20 FE uses an optical — still under-display scanner — from a company called Goodix, which also makes them for the OnePlus 8 and Huawei P40 series.

Surprisingly, the Galaxy S20 FE unlocked more consistently than the Galaxy S20.

The same triple camera setup

In every phone review, the most exciting part is testing and comparing the phone’s cameras. The Galaxy S20 FE has the same standard triple camera setup, offering you wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto.

It has a 12-megapixel main camera with a 123-degree field of view, a 12-megapixel wide camera same as the S20 and S20+, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera.

Galaxy S20 FE

Although, it doesn’t have the exact same hardware so it produced slightly different shots compared to its siblings.

Playing around with the rear camera

The first thing you’ll notice in these photos is the balance — both in color and contrast. These sample photos taken using 1x Auto mode were neither cool nor warm, and shadows are balanced evenly along with the highlights.

The HDR balances the exposure and highlights, too. If you’ll look at the photo above, the clouds didn’t appear blown out.

Bokeh — even without portrait mode — looks seamless, crisp, and clean.

When taking photos close to dusk, and even in the blue hour, the S20 FE produces lesser noise but the loss in quality is noticeable when you zoom in.

The loss in quality is even more evident when you use the telephoto lens at night.

When it gets really dark, Night Mode kicks in. Compared to the S20, the S20 FE’s long exposure results in brighter photos with more color and detail.

If you can see the vibrant TukTuk and the food shot in a Thai restaurant, the S20 FE packed some punch when taking photos in low light.

Even when you subject the camera to an extremely low light test (without using Night Mode), the results are still astounding.

Now, let’s move over to the ultra wide-angle lens. The S20 FE has a slightly wider field of view, albeit looking dull, cooler, and gloomy.

Meanwhile, using the 3X Optical Zoom lens can have a different result depending on the photo. Sometimes, it takes brighter photos. But more importantly, there is lesser noise even when using zoom.

On paper, the S20 and its siblings have more superior camera, but the S20 FE doesn’t fall behind. Personally, we didn’t feel we’re using less of a smartphone camera, seeing how we’ve used the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra this year.

The only disadvantage would be the S20 FE’s ability to shoot videos only in 4K. Frankly, we don’t think most users will mind if they can’t shoot in 8K. We personally don’t.

Selfies we enjoy

Upfront, the S20 FE has a better selfie camera — which makes sense based on the user this phone targets. Both in day and night (and in a pandemic wedding using a pink stage light), the S20 FE surely delivers.

We’re happy since our faces didn’t wash up. Some smartphones — even without beauty mode — beautifies your face and it’s annoying AF.

Battery that delivers

The Galaxy S20 FE packs the same 4500mAh battery as the S20+. During our stint, the phone lasted a solid day of moderate use, with some left-over for the next morning. About six to seven hours of Screen on Time switching between WiFi and Cellular.

Galaxy S20 FE

It’s a big deal that the Galaxy S20 FE delivers on battery life. Imagine having to charge your phone before the end of the day. So. Inconvenient.

The phone only ships with a 15W charger in the box, but it does support 25W fast charging. With the bundled charger, the phone got to 13 percent in 10 minutes, 36 percent in 30, and a full charge in 90 minutes.

Samsung’s 25W charging adapter is an optional US$ 34.99 purchase, although we found it on Amazon for US$ 13.99. Using that fast charger, you can get to 23 percent in 10 minutes, 50 percent in 30 minutes as claimed, and 100 percent in 65 minutes.

Furthermore, the Galaxy S20 FE supports up to 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging, in case you need to recharge your Galaxy Buds Live.

Final thoughts

The arrival of the S20 FE is a sign of good things to come. If for anything, it’s an acknowledgment that users who have come to love the S Series, just aren’t willing to pay a thousand dollars for it anymore.

Galaxy S20 FE

Should Samsung release a follow-up, they should make an adjustment to the S21’s base price.

This year, we’ve seen companies offer a less prestigious processor — the likes of the premium midrange Snapdragon 765G — seen on the likes of the LG Velvet, OnePlus Nord, and the Pixel 5.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you as a user value most. Frankly, we think Samsung did all the right things here.

By satisfying the needs of the spec-obsessed who need the best processor and the fastest display, and those of the everyday user who will benefit most from long battery life, and almost-as-good camera — at a more palatable US$ 700 price tag.

And for that, we gave it the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval.

Galaxy S20 FE

In the Philippines, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE retails for PhP 35,990. It’s available on Samsung’s Online Store, Samsung’s official physical stores, and authorized retailers. The Galaxy S20 FE is also available via Smart’s Signature Plans.

Laptops

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen review: 4 months after

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Huawei MateBook D 15

The work from home and online class setup had us all adjusting to this new normal. You’ll see a lot of inquiries on Facebook groups about LED ring lights, microphones and midrange laptop recommendations. Huawei’s MateBook D series is among the ones you’ll see that has gotten a lot of popularity for this purpose.

It makes perfect sense, since back when I first reviewed the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen, I had a lot of good things to say about it. After four months under regular use, there are quite a few more that I came to realize about this device that I think you guys might find interesting.

It can get things done

A quick refresher on its specs, the D 15 2021 we have with us has an 11th gen Core i5 with the Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. 

It’s no question, if you’re just going to use this for online classes or regular zoom meetings, the D 15 probably won’t even break a sweat. However, I consider my power requirements to be somewhat on the heavy side for my photo and video editing needs.

What surprised me was I didn’t find myself having to go back to my main editing workstation and have actually done more work on the D 15 than I expected. It may not be as fast, but it also wasn’t drastically slower.

Plus the fact that this has a more accurate display with its 100 percent sRGB color gamut, the 15.6-inch LED display is perfect for my daily Photoshop use.

Portability also applies at home

Huawei MateBook D 15

Working from home for a long time and looking at the same thing over and over, not having to be able to go to places, had many of us bored and unmotivated. I personally always had that urge to look for another spot just for the change of scenery.

Thankfully, weighing only 1.56kg, it gave me the flexibility for me to place it in different places. I didn’t worry that the surface wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Battery life

The capability to place the D 15 on different places wouldn’t really matter if you’re still stuck near an outlet because you’re constantly required to plug it in. Fortunately, the 42Wh battery of the D 15 keeps us away from the charger for around nine to ten hours before needing to plug it back in.

Huawei addresses issues and gives regular updates

Huawei MateBook D 15

During its time with me, the D 15 had quite a few driver and software updates. Along with one of the updates came a fix for an issue I had with its fingerprint scanner where it frequently had trouble recognizing my fingerprint. While it shouldn’t have had that issue to begin with, the regular updates are an indication that users aren’t abandoned and issues are in fact being addressed on Huawei’s end.

I also learned from Huawei’s website that the MateBook series has a Windows 11 upgrade rollout plan. That’s something nice to look forward to.

Undesirable camera angle

Huawei MateBook D 15

Sadly, not everything is praise worthy on the D 15. The hidden web camera, while innovative, came at the cost of an awful camera angle. Since it is placed on the keyboard, it is also pointed upwards.

Using it, you’ll mostly see an unflattering image of yourself often emphasizing the size of your nostrils.But if you decide that you’d want to use a laptop raiser for a more comfortable viewing angle, the camera won’t be pointed downwards. That’d make it barely usable.

A generous availability of ports

Huawei MateBook D 15

Being the boxing fan that I am, the recent Pacquiao fight had me subscribing for a pay-per-view service. The full sized HDMI port on the D 15 was heaven sent. During the fight as I was able to output the fight on our dated TV set. It let us to enjoy the stream on a bigger screen.

The availability of USB ports on both sides also let us to choose where certain devices can be plugged. We didn’t worry about hitting our external drives with our mouse or fitting multiple USB devices side by side.

Multi-Screen Collaboration

I did not find myself using this feature as much. However, having this capability eliminated the need for me to grab a USB cable to transfer files from my phone. A quick tap of my phone and I was ready to transfer photos I recently. It’s great for some quick editing before posting on Instagram. 

Is this still your GadgetMatch?

Huawei MateBook D 15

When I think of the D 15, freedom is the word that comes to mind. It gives so much freedom to work anywhere with its portability and battery life. You get freedom to do what you wish with it with its capable hardware. There’s also freedom from wires with the Multi-Screen Collaboration. And even freedom to plug various devices with its great selection of ports.

It’s a no fuss kind of laptop that just gets things done. Its sheer simplicity is what makes it a great device.

If you’re interested in getting the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, you can now get it for PhP 48,999.00.

 

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Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Review: Best Android smartwatch yet?

But is it any better than the Apple Watch?

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Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch4 just recently — which is the successor to 2019’s Galaxy Watch Active2.

Now with the power of a BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) via its Bio Active Sensor, the Galaxy Watch4 can simply measure your body composition with just your two fingers and wrist.

But is it any better than the Apple Watch?

Watch our Samsung Galaxy Watch4 review now to know more.

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Accessories

Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1: Intuitive and portable podcasting rig

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AU-AM200-S1

I am a fan of quality and affordable gear. Modern manufacturing techniques and advancements in technology gave us a vast selection of gadgets in all shapes and sizes.

With the gaining popularity of live streaming, the demand for good audio interface and microphones is growing. The brand Maono, relatively speaking, is a newcomer that offers affordable audio products.

What we’ve got here is the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1, which is a portable podcasting gear. This is the very first product I’ve got the chance to try from this brand and I’m liking it so far. This bundle is ideal for someone who is just getting into podcasting or a musician looking for a cheaper alternative.

What’s in the box?

AM200 Podcast Console

At first glance I actually thought it was a miniatured DJ turntable because of the two mini platters, but those are just volume knobs for the mics and music. It is a 3-channel mixer-type audio interface with five outputs. The two inputs are designated for mics and/or instruments and the other input is for music. Three outputs (3.5mm TRRS) for smartphones are available so you can stream simultaneously on different platforms.

A separate main and monitor output is available so you can listen to what your audience hears. Note that all the inputs and outputs are for 3.5mm jacks so if you are planning to plug in an instrument directly using a PL (1/4 inch) cable, you will need a 3.5mm adapter.

Plug and play

You can connect it to a computer with the USB A to C cable that is included. It doesn’t require any drivers, so, just plug it in and it’s good to go. It should be compatible to most DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) for music recording. There is a 3-band EQ along with a “REC” volume knob which is like a “Send” knob to feed the audio to the devices it’s connected to.

Two crossfaders control the monitor volume and echo level. The “monitor” crossfader controls both the volume level for the (main) output and the monitor (output). I wish they installed separated levers for each one to control them independently.

This is also the case for the mic volume knob, it controls both the levels of mic 1 and mic 2. It would’ve have been handy if there are separate knobs for each but I think they did this design to fit in a compact box.

For outdoor streaming and recording

At the middle portion, you’ll notice along the LED indicator level signal is a battery indicator. Yes, this is also battery powered which makes it suitable for out of home live streaming, if you prefer creating something for your viewers elsewhere. You can easily recharge the batteries with the USB C cable.

There are also audio sample pads, buttons for sound effects and pitch shifters.

AU-PM360TR Microphone

AU-AM200-S1

This condenser microphone does not require phantom power. It runs below 5V, through the XLR to 3.5mm cable, unlike the industry standard condenser microphones. With its cardioid polar pattern, it will be more sensitive to sounds being captured in front of it.

Earphones

It comes with a pair of in-ear earbuds with a very long cable, enough to cover the distance for a typical on-desk live streaming. I think that the sound quality would be more appreciated by most modern pop listeners who like a lot of bass. Because it does deliver that low-mid thump.

Tripod

Out of the box, the microphone comes attached to the mini tabletop tripod. The microphone is detachable to the tripod, but if it is used handheld, it will pick-up a lot of hand noise. So, it is better to leave it on the tripod.

Other accessories included are: XLR to 3.5mm cable, two 3.5mm TRRS cables, USB A to USB C cable, and a windscreen cap.

Performance

For podcasting, it is very easy to use. It’s what the AU-AM200-S1 is made for and they did a good job. The microphone delivers a clearer and louder output compared to built-in mics in smartphones/laptops or headsets. You can control the volume of music accompaniment easily with the wheel knob, whenever you want to highlight the music or the voice.

Plus, the sound samples like the applause, laughter, cheering etc., are nice additions for some impromptu segments in your streams. You can also record your own samples by pressing the “loop back” button and assigning to any of the blank buttons available.

Since the microphone does not require a phantom power, the output is weaker compared to classic condenser microphones. The sound quality is good nevertheless.

AU-AM200-S1

For music recording, you can record your instruments with it on your preferred DAW. I connected my guitar to my digital effects processor with a 3.5mm headphones jack going to the mic input of Maono console. I noticed that the 2 mic inputs have high gain levels because my guitar was already clipping with the volume knob on the AM200 console at around 10 o’clock.

Usually, I set the volume on my guitar effects unit on almost full when I am recording with a different audio interface and mixers. But with the Maono AU-AM200-S1, I only had to set the volume of my guitar effects at 50 percent. This is good because it doesn’t have a designated gain knob. Just watch out for clipping- if it happens, you may want to lower the volume from the source.

I recorded a few short audio samples to demonstrate how the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 handles recording. Please excuse my singing voice.

Mic only without echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only with 50% echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only with 100% echo(onboard) – vocal

Mic only without echo – vocal and guitar

Mic only with post-editing – vocal and guitar

Guitar through a digital effects processor

In a full band mix – Recorded vocals and guitars (both acoustic and electric)

Fully recorded demo

 

There are two functions that I have a few comments on:

AU-AM200-S1

Denoise — This is their “smart noise cancelling” feature that reduces background noise. It does its job as a noise gate, but unfortunately, you cannot adjust the settings (threshold, attack, range, etc.). Depending on how loud the ambient noise is, the mic sometimes gets a stuttering sound when this feature is engaged. If the room is quiet enough, there shouldn’t be any problem.

Music Only — This feature attempts to minimize the vocals in the music that you are playing, but similarly to the denoise, it sometimes affects the mic audio quality. I suggest looking for backing tracks of the songs you want to sing during your live stream beforehand.

Is the AU-AM200-S1 your GadgetMatch?

AU-AM200-S1

The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 bundle is a usable and functional piece of gear. I see it as a bring-it-anywhere, all-in-one podcasting kit. It would have been more convenient (for me) if they included ¼ inch inputs for mics and instruments. Although, I guess it would kind of defeat its portable nature because most PL cables are thicker and heavier compared to the 3.5mm cables included in this bundle.

Pricing and Availability

The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 retails for $109.00 and is available for purchase in Amazon, Shopee, and Lazada. You can check out their other products at the official Maono website.

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