How times change. A few years ago, people would have laughed at the notion of Samsung and OnePlus flagship phones being in the same price segment. After all, was not Samsung the original flagship while OnePlus was the upstart new brand that had started out with the concept of a “flagship killer?” Today, however, if you are in the market for a flagship-level device and do not want to go beyond Rs 50,000, you will actually find these two brands facing each other. And the two choices that are most likely to confront you are the newly released OnePlus 9 that starts at Rs 49,999 and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, which at the time of writing is available for Rs 47,999. And they are both excellent phones at that price. So which one should you go for? It is not an easy choice, but let me try to sort out matters.

Design and appearance

In terms of design, the OnePlus 9 (above) and the Galaxy S20 FE 5G (below) follow two very different philosophies. Both have a flat display with a punch hole in it in front, and slightly curved backs, with rectangular camera units, but while the OnePlus 9 has a glass back, the S20 FE 5G has a carbonate one. The finish of both is also very different – the OnePlus 9 comes with a more shiny, glossy finish, while the S20 FE has a matte one. Which one you prefer is going to be a matter of personal choice. They are roughly the same size, although the S20 FE 5G is slightly wider and a little shorter. I personally preferred the matte finish on the S20 FE 5G – it looks different, has a certain “cool” factor, and does not require a case. The S20 FE 5G also comes with an IP68 dust and water rating, something the OnePlus lacks, winning it this round.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5F

Display

This is a clash of two full HD AMOLED displays, with 120Hz refresh rates. The Galaxy S20 FE 5G has a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display while the OnePlus has a 6.55-inch fluid AMOLED display. Both displays are superb and colorful. However, if I had to pick one, I would go with the one on the S20 FE 5G, as it just seems to “pop” a little more. But it is a very close finish.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Processor

The Galaxy S20 FE 5G comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, unlike its non-5G avatar which was powered by an Exynos chip. This is a flagship-level chip, but it is outclassed by the Snapdragon 888 on the OnePlus 9, which is the latest in the series. There is only one winner here.

Winner: OnePlus 9

Memory and storage

Both phones come with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage variants. The OnePlus 9 however also has a 12GB RAM and 256GB storage variant. That said, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G comes with a hybrid SIM card slot, which allows you to expand its storage up to 1TB, if you are ready to sacrifice one of the two SIM connections. The expandable storage just gives this one to the Galaxy S20 FE, I think.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Gaming and multimedia

Both phones come with flagship processors and lots of RAM as well as stereo speakers, so the performance in gaming and multimedia is predictably top-notch. Both can run heavy-duty games without breaking into a sweat. And the displays are brilliant for viewing content, with the speakers pitching with very good sound – I thought the S20 FE’s speakers sounded marginally better, but this is a very subjective call. While at the time of writing both devices performed at around the same level, I think having a newer processor gives the OnePlus 9 a much higher performance potential in the long term. Which is why I am handing this round to it.

Winner: OnePlus 9

Cameras

We never thought the day would come when a OnePlus device could hold its own against the cameras of a Samsung flagship. Well, the OnePlus 9 does just that, at least in my opinion. Its triple camera set up of a 48-megapixel main sensor, a 50-megapixel ultrawide and a 2-megapixel monochrome camera (complete with the Hasselblad association), more often than not matches the 12-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultrawide, and 8-megapixel telephoto combination on the S20 FE 5G. The S20 FE 5G does have more shooting options though, and lets you do much more with options like Single Take. Some might also value the 3x optical zoom on the S20 FE, thanks to the dedicated telephoto sensor.

But really, the difference between the two phones on the camera front is going to be a matter of taste – the S20 FE 5G has Samsung’s trademark, slightly bright coloured approach to snaps, while the OnePlus 9 tries to deliver more natural-looking pictures I feel, thanks to the Hasselblad tie-up. We feel the S20 FE 5G has a slight edge in videos and in low light shots, but in general the OnePlus 9 more than matches it. The 32-megapixel selfie camera on the Galaxy S20 FE 5G however, totally beats the 16-megapixel one on the OnePlus 9 in terms of colour and details. We are calling this one a tie, and that should tell you how much OnePlus has improved its camera game (and it might even get better, given the brand’s flood of software updates).

Winner: Tie

Software

Both phones come with Android 11 out of the box. There the similarity ends, however, as the S20 FE 5G comes with Samsung’s very elaborate OneUI 3.0 on top of it, the OnePlus 9 comes with the more clean Oxygen OS. Which is better is a matter of debate. Some would prefer the less cluttered approach of Oxygen OS, but there is no doubting that OneUI comes with a number of features that let you do much more with your device – something which becomes very obvious when you are using the camera in particular. OnePlus used to have a clear edge in regular software updates in the past, but Samsung has upped its game in that regard in recent times. The Galaxy S20 FE 5G also comes with DeX support letting you connect the device to others seamlessly, also has Knox security. We are calling this a tie as well – if you like clean UIs, you will prefer the OnePlus 9, if you want features right out of the box, it is the Galaxy S20 FE 5G for you.

Winner: Tie

Battery life

Both phones come with a 4,500mAh battery each. And both are able to see off a day’s normal use and a little more with careful usage. But the manner of charging these batteries is interesting. The OnePlus 9 (pictured above) of course comes with the iconic Warp Charge and a 65W charger that charges the phone in about half an hour. The Galaxy S20 FE 5G supports up to 25W fast charging but comes only with a 15W charger in the box, which means the battery takes a fair bit longer to get charged. Yes, the S20 FE 5G does add wireless charging to the mix, and can even charge other supported devices wirelessly, but I think the difference here is simply too great. That Warp Charge and charger win it for the OnePlus 9.

Winner: OnePlus 9

General performance

In terms of routine everyday tasks, there is not much to separate the two devices. Both are very adept at handling web browsing, social networks, and the like. I experienced no lags while using either device. Both come with in-display fingerprint scanners and frankly neither is really a great performer – I still prefer the scanner to be on the side of the phone. Call quality was largely similar on both devices, and so was audio performance. Both phones also support 5G, although Indian networks themselves do not. Another tie, this.

Winner: Tie.

Pricing

The OnePlus 9 comes in two variants 8 GB/ 128 GB for Rs 49,999 and 12 GB/ 256 GB for Rs 54,999, while the Galaxy S20 FE 5G comes in a single variant priced at Rs 47,999 (although we are told this is a special price that will be increased to Rs 55,999 later). In sheer budget terms, the S20 FE 5G has a slight edge here – if every buck counts, the Samsung device is the one to go for.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Conclusion: And you are buying…

So which one of the two should you be going for? We must confess that in terms of sheer hardware, the OnePlus 9 has a clear edge over the S20FE 5G. After all, it has a newer processor, and comes with a much faster-charging battery. However, we know there are those who prefer the Samsung ecosystem and while the S20 FE 5G does trail the OnePlus 9 on the spec front, it more than matches it in terms of sheer performance and also cuts much the smarter figure. It also adds mainstream features like dust and water resistance, expandable memory, and a more feature-rich UI. And of course, some might be swayed by the promise of wireless charging on it. Those who like to have the latest and Never Settle for anything less would prefer the OnePlus 9, but those wanting the comfort of a more “traditional” brand and not obsessing over benchmarks would prefer the S20 FE 5G. Both parties will end up with a phone that performs really well. It is a good problem of choice to have!



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