Samsung Galaxy S20 vs. Galaxy S10: Is it worth upgrading?

The annual Galaxy S update at Samsung’s Unpacked event brought us three new phones in the series. The Galaxy S20 is the most affordable of the bunch and likely to appeal to a lot of people, but how does it compare to last year’s Galaxy S10? Whether you’re pondering an upgrade or thinking about saving some cash by buying Samsung’s older flagship, we’ve got all the details you need right here. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what sets the S20 and the S10 apart.

Specs

Galaxy S20 Galaxy S10
Size 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm (5.97 x 2.72 x 0.31 inches) 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm (5.9 x 2.77 x 0.31 inches)
Weight  163 grams (5.74 ounces) 157 grams (5.54 ounces)
Screen size 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Screen resolution 3,200 x 1,440 pixels (563 pixels-per-inch) 3040 x 1440 pixels (550 ppi)
Operating system Android 10 Android 10
Storage 128GB 128GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
Tap-to-pay services Samsung Pay, Google Pay Samsung Pay, Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM 12GB 8GB
Camera 12-megapixel, 64MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide rear, 10MP front 12-megapixel, 12MP telephoto, and 16MP ultrawide rear, 10MP front
Video 8K at 30fps, 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240fps, 720p at 960fps 2160p at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, 720p at 960fps
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack
Fingerprint sensor In-display In-display
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,000mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Qi wireless charging

3,400mAh

Fast charging (QC 2.0)

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
Colors Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, Cloud Pink Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Green, Prism Blue, Canary Yellow, Flamingo Pink, Cardinal Red, Smoke Blue
Price $1,000 $700
Buy from Samsung Samsung
Review score Hands-on 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

While there’s no mistaking that these phones belong to the same family, Samsung has made a few design tweaks to the S20. It’s still a curved glass sandwich, but the camera module on the back is now vertically stacked and shifted off to the top left. The headphone port is gone from the S20 and so is the Bixby key.

Samsung has managed to squeeze in a tiny bit more screen without increasing the overall size by much — an impressive feat given the expanded battery and 5G support. The hole-punch camera that was top right on the S10 has been centered on the S20. The Dynamic AMOLED screen on the S20 improves on its predecessor’s already excellent display with a much higher 120Hz refresh rate that lends a silky smooth feel to scrolls and swipes and ensures that even the most demanding of games look as they should.

Dropping either of these phones is liable to cause severe anxiety, so cases are advisable, but they do have an IP68 rating, which means they can survive submersion in fresh water for up to half an hour.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20

Performance, battery life, and charging

Samsung Galaxy S20 held in hand
John Velasco / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S20 has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor inside, or the Samsung Exynos 990 in some markets, and a whopping 12GB of RAM. The S10 has last year’s Snapdragon 855 and 8GB of RAM. While there’s no doubt that the S20 is faster and more capable in the multitasking department, the S10 will still be plenty powerful for most people. The higher refresh rate in the S20 will also make it feel more responsive, but both these phones can run the most demanding games and apps, and that’s likely to be true for some time to come.

Samsung has somehow managed to pack in a much bigger battery for the S20, adding an extra 600mAh. It will need some of that to handle the higher power demands of 5G, the extra RAM, and the larger screen with its higher refresh rate, but it should still outlast the S10. The S20 is also capable of faster wired charging at up to 25W. Both phones can be charged wirelessly.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20

Further reading

Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S20 taking a photo
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Although the S20 has a triple-lens main camera, just like the S10, Samsung has made some improvements, including upgrading the telephoto lens from 12 megapixels to 64 megapixels, which enables a 3x optical zoom and 30x digital zoom. The ultrawide lens has dropped from 16 to 12 megapixels, but thanks to the larger image sensor, the S20 can capture more light, so it should turn out better photos than the S10 in low-light environments. Samsung also promises that improvements have been made to the artificial intelligence to make it easier to find the ideal settings to capture the best photos in different situations. The S20 is also capable of 8K video recording, while the S10 maxes out at 4K. Both have a 10-megapixel front-facing camera.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20

Software and updates

Samsung Galaxy S20 held in hand
John Velasco / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S20 runs Android 10 with Samsung’s streamlined One UI 2.0 over the top. This software combination has already been rolled out to the Galaxy S10, so there’s very little discernible difference between these two phones on the software front. The S20 may get updates a little quicker and for a little longer than the S10, but as it stands, there’s no dividing them here.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Samsung Galaxy S20 camera closeup
John Velasco / Digital Trends

The big new feature in the S20, beyond what we’ve already looked at, is support for 5G. However, the Galaxy S20 can only support Sub-6 5G networks and can’t handle the higher frequency mmWave technology — you’ll need to jump to the S20 Plus or S20 Ultra for that. In simple terms, Sub-6 has a better range and penetration than mmWave, but doesn’t offer such fast speeds. The Galaxy S10 is limited to 4G connectivity. If you live in a city or you want to future-proof for 5G, then the S20 is going to be a better pick for you, but we advise checking in with your carrier on coverage and available plans before you decide.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is currently widely available starting from $700.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 starts from $1,000. You can pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S20 from February 21, and if you do so before March 5, you’ll get a $100 Samsung credit.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S20

As you would expect, the Galaxy S20 comes out victorious with a faster processor, more RAM, an improved display, a better camera, and a bigger battery. All of that comes before we mention 5G connectivity. Although there are tangible improvements across the board here, they’re mostly incremental. The S10 is still an excellent phone, especially if you’re not in a position to take advantage of 5G yet, and it can be had for several hundred dollars less than the S20.

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