Apple iPhone SE (2020) review

GSMArena team, 1 May 2020.

Display

The iPhone SE (2020) borrows iPhone 8 display - yes, the same that was borrowed in the first place from the iPhone 6. The panel in question was introduced way back in 2014, but it was improved over the years with wide color gamut support, True Tone enhancements, and HDR adjustments.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

So, the new iPhone SE packs a 4.7" 16:9 LED-backlit IPS LCD screen, also known as Retina display, which has 326ppi or 1334 x 750 pixels. This particular pixel density has been introduced with the iPhone 4, and it is the true meaning behind the word Retina in Apple's world all these years. The iPhone X was first to change that to Super Retina 458ppi.

The screen is flat, protected by a custom-made glass by Corning and has oleophobic coating for additional smudge resistance.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

TrueTone color-correction adjustments are available for the iPhone SE display, Night Shift - the blue-light filter, is a part of the iOS feature set, too.

Apple says the screen can display HDR10 and Dolby Vision content. Thanks to the wide color support, the high screen brightness, and contrast, the display can do some improvements to the dynamic range, and you can indeed see some benefits. But a proper HDR-enabled screen, like the iPhone 11 Pro's, can show you true HDR10 with all the benefits.

And now with all these technicalities out of the way, let's look at some numbers.

The Apple iPhone SE (2020) screen can be very bright - we measured 670 nits at the top end of the brightness slider. That's even more than the promised 625 nits from Apple. The black levels are about average, and the iPhone SE panel delivered north of the suggested screen contrast ratio of 1400:1.

The minimum brightness we captured on the white color is 2.7 nits - a great one for reading sessions in the dark!

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Apple iPhone SE (2020) 0.434 670 1544:1
Apple iPhone 8 (Standard) 0.399 566 1419:1
Apple iPhone 8 (Max Auto) 0.468 640 1368:1
Apple iPhone SE 0.77 618 804:1
Apple iPhone X 0 679
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE 0 444
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE (Max Auto) 0 637
Realme 6 0.343 451 1315:1
Realme 6 Pro 0.318 421 1324:1
Realme X50 Pro 5G 0 525
Realme X50 Pro 5G (Max Auto) 0 635
Samsung Galaxy S20 0 397
Samsung Galaxy S20 (Max Auto) 0 814
Apple iPhone 6 0.61 740 1213:1

We did our usual measurements on the iPhone SE screen, and we captured very accurate levels of color rendering. The screen has an average deltaE of 1.4, while the maximum deviation of 2.8 is at point white. All measured colors are well below deltaE of 4, which means the screen has excellent calibration.

These measurements were taken with TrueTone turned off, as it changes the color calibration depending on the ambient light and can fool our colorimeter. For the most realistic colors, you should keep this option off, whereas for the most eye-pleasing rendeding of white and gray - keep it on.

Battery life and charging

The iPhone SE (2020) is powered by 1,821mAh battery - the same capacity as iPhone 8's, though a different cell. You can charge the iPhone SE with its ancient 5W charger, the Pro's 18W charger, or any USB-PD charger really. The iPhone SE also supports wireless charging, so that's an option as well.

The iPhone SE ships with a regular 5V/1A charger plug that replenish 27% of a dead battery in 30 mins, while a full charge requires about 2 hours and 30 mins.

We also tested the iPhone SE with the iPhone 11 Pro 18W charger - it refills about 57% of the SE's battery in 30 mins, while a full charge takes about 100 mins.

The iPhone SE posted balanced scores on our battery test - it can do about 10 hours of 3G calls, north of 13 hours of web browsing on a single charge, or you can watch videos for about 9 hours. The standby endurance turned out above average and thus the good but unremarkable overall endurance rating of 59 hours.

Still, for such a small battery, the screen-on times turned out to be rather respectable.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating above denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Apple iPhone SE (2020) for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We've established this usage pattern so that our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you're interested in the nitty-gritty. You can check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we've tested will compare under your own typical use.

Speakers

The Apple iPhone SE (2020) has two speakers - one dedicated at the bottom and the other one is the earpiece. The bottom one offers more bass than the earpiece, but other than that - their loudness seems balanced enough.

Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

In our new speaker test, the iPhone SE scored a Very Good mark for loudness. As for the quality - it's also very good. The bass and melodies are great, but the vocals could have been better as they sound suppressed at times.

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone sample recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal "0db" flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

Audio output quality

We've recently discontinued our audio output quality test.

The reason for that is that most phones were already excellent in this regard and whatever difference there was, it was marginal and probably indistinguishable to anything but lab equipment.

Reader comments

  • Not picky

I think all phones are goon now a days. The important things are storage and battery. This is new phone with high power with a small battery . It dies fast from day one. Better own a power bank if you are out all day.

Hi thanks for the wonderful review. Just a comment on low light photos: you day: "but for a single ycan only do so much" Please explain....is there any phone that other cameras helping the main with liw light? :) Sure not and I am su...

  • Champ

There is none of heat sink?? Is it getting hot more when YOU use it?