Samsung’s The Galaxy S21 FE is a cheaper variant of the original S21, but it still feels pricey

  • Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE can be an extra reasonably priced possibility than the subsequent era of 2022 flagships.
  •  It is principally a pared-down model of Samsung’s 2021 flagship — the Galaxy S21 lineup. 
  • The Galaxy S21 FE will begin at $699 when launched on January 11 by Samsung, carriers, and prominent retailers. 

Samsung's The Galaxy S21 FE is a cheaper variant of the original S21, but it still feels pricey

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Pros: Slim design, powerful performance, lovely screen, super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, excellent camera quality in bright light, triple-lens camera.
Cons: Short battery life, poor low-light camera performance, and a higher price than the Pixel 6.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE is essentially a value-based upgrade of last year’s S21 flagship phone. For $100 cheaper, it offers comparable performance and features, making it one of the best premium Android phones under $1,000.

However, we have yet to compare it to Samsung’s 2022 flagship phone range, which we expect to be dubbed the Galaxy S22. When those new phones are formally released, we’ll know the full value of the S21 FE.

It’s also worth noting that, while the FE model is nearly identical to the ordinary S21, the design has been streamlined, and the camera system has been degraded. The battery life is likewise a letdown, and the pricing remains expensive for a newer and less powerful version of a one-year-old phone.

On the plus side, Galaxy S21 FE buyers get an extra generation of Android updates as well as an additional year of security updates, which the Galaxy S21 does not.

Specifications for the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Samsung Galaxy S21 FESpecifications
Display6.4-inch FHD+ AMOLED (2,340 x 1,080 resolution), 60Hz/120Hz refresh rate
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 888
Cameras12-megapixel main, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, and 8-megapixel 3x optical telephoto lens up to 30x digital zoom
Battery4,500mAh
Selfie Camera32-megapixel
Memory and storage6GB RAM + 128GB8GB RAM + 256GB
Biometric AuthenticationUnder-display optical fingerprint sensor
Network Support5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)
DurabilityIP68

Design

The design of the Galaxy S21 FE is similar to that of the original Galaxy S21, yet it’s as simple as they come. It looks good, but for $700, you may expect more design flourishes. In comparison, Google’s Pixel 6, which costs $600, has a more appealing look.

The plastic back of the Galaxy S21 FE is a welcome change.

The rear is made of plastic and comes in graphite, navy, olive, lavender, and white matte. Plastic doesn’t often feel as good as glass, but the Galaxy S21 FE‘s back feels strong and has nearly no flex. For comparison, the back of the original Galaxy S21 is similarly plastic, but Samsung went to greater lengths to make this version feel more luxurious, including brighter colors and a metal frame that wraps around the cameras.

The plastic back on the Galaxy S21 FE is refreshing for a premium phone because it makes it feel less delicate and fragile. Furthermore, most users protect their phones with plastic cases, which eliminates the quality feel of glass.

The Galaxy S21 FE‘s design features a remarkably light weight of 177 grams, making it more comfortable to use and maneuver than comparable premium phones with huge screens.

The Galaxy S21 FE has a massive 6.4-inch screen, but because to its low bezels, it doesn’t feel that big.

Display

With the Galaxy S21 FE, Samsung’s reputation for making great phone screens is maintained. A bright, vibrant AMOLED screen with excellent contrast makes everything on the screen look good. The FHD+ 1080p resolution is plenty sharp, and the 120Hz refresh rate makes swiping and navigating around the phone a breeze.

The fingerprint sensor built into the display works great.

The Galaxy S21 FE has an optical in-display fingerprint sensor, whereas the Galaxy S21 employs ultrasonic sensors, which are said to be less susceptible to moisture and grime. The fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S21 FE has worked well for unlocking the phone and apps that require biometric security.

Performance

Because it has the same processor as last year’s flagship Android phones, the Galaxy S21 FE performs like a premium phone from 2021. That is to say, the Galaxy S21 FE can handle everything – programs and games open and operate quickly and efficiently, which is to be anticipated at the $700 price range.

Our Galaxy S21 FE review sample has 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM (RAM). Geekbench 5 benchmarking results put the Galaxy S21 FE on par with the original Galaxy S21, which has the same chipset and 8GB of RAM.

The Galaxy S21 FE received a single-core score of 1,098 and a multi-core score of 3,035. The original Galaxy S21 had equal single-core and multi-core scores of 1,098 and 3,259, respectively. The Galaxy S21’s increased multi-core performance score is insignificant.

How often will the Galaxy S21 FE receive Android updates?

Samsung promised four generations of Android OS improvements for its Galaxy S phones. Because the Galaxy S21 FE was released with Android 12, users will be able to receive updates up to Android 16. That’s one of the best Android update periods we’ve seen, even better than Google’s Pixel 6 support window, which offers two years of Android OS updates (not necessarily two generations).

Samsung also guarantees to provide security upgrades for at least five years after a phone’s initial release date. That implies the Galaxy S21 FE will receive security updates until at least 2027, eclipsing Google’s Pixel phone guarantee.

Processor

Because the Galaxy S21 launched with Android 11 and will be supported till Android 15, this is one of the biggest reasons to buy the Galaxy S21 FE over the original Galaxy S21. The Galaxy S21 will also only be supported until 2026 in terms of security patches. This was confirmed by Samsung.

Time between charges

The Galaxy S21 FE fails to wow here, especially for a phone with a 6.4-inch screen and expectedly good battery life. For “power users” who use their phones frequently throughout the day, this could be a deal-breaker.

The battery drains surprisingly quickly when going through social media, streaming films, and using basic apps on a regular basis. The Galaxy S21 FE’s battery drains to roughly 25% capacity by the end of an average day.

The Galaxy S21 FE‘s battery life isn’t spectacular, as seen by the fact that it only lasts 10 hours and 10 minutes in our video streaming test, which involves continually streaming a YouTube film at full screen brightness at the phone’s default 1080p quality.

Display

The original Galaxy S21, which had a 6.2-inch screen, lasted 12 hours and 46 minutes. In the $700 price range of the Galaxy S21 FE, Apple’s iPhone 12 with a smaller 6.1-inch screen lasts 11 hours and 54 minutes, or roughly 12 hours. With the same screen size, Google’s Pixel 6 lasts 13 hours and 58 minutes, or almost 14 hours.

Setting the screen to the regular 60Hz refresh rate will improve battery life. Paying $700 for an Android phone to obtain a standard 60Hz experience, on the other hand, doesn’t feel right.

The Galaxy S21 FE can charge at up to 15W, which is very common these days. It doesn’t come with a charger, which is inconvenient, but most of us have accumulated a large number of chargers over time. If you desire or need a new charger, we recommend Anker’s $17 20W PowerPort III Nano, which will fully charge the Galaxy S21 FE, other Android phones, and even iPhones.

Wireless charging is also possible on the Galaxy S21 FE, as well as reverse wireless charging for charging accessories such as wireless earphones from the rear of the phone.

Cameras

A regular, ultra-wide, and zoom lens are included in the triple-lens camera. That’s more than you get at the same price with the iPhone 12, and it’s clearly of higher quality.

On the flipside, the zoom lens on the Galaxy S21 FE is a significant loss from the original Galaxy S21, decreasing from 64 megapixels to just 8 megapixels on this new edition.

Design

However, in ordinary shooting, you won’t notice much of a difference, at least when the lighting is excellent. Though the other lenses are comparable, if not identical, to those of the original Galaxy S21, the FE’s cameras struggle in low light.

What other options do you have?

Google’s $600 The Pixel 6 is an obvious challenger to the Galaxy S21 FE, and we prefer it because of its longer battery life, bolder design, better low-light cameras, and lower price.

If you desire greater quality zoom photographs and Samsung’s promise of more Android upgrades, the Galaxy S21 FE is the better choice. You’ll just have to put up with the $100 price tag and the short battery life.

Galaxy S21 FE 5G Comparison

Galaxy S21 FEGalaxy S21 5GGalaxy S21+ 5GGalaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Screen Size6.4″6.2″6.7″6.8″
ProcessorSnapdragon 888Snapdragon 888Snapdragon 888Snapdragon 888
Main Camera12MP12MP12MP108MP
Front Camera32MP10MP10MP40MP
Max Zoom30X30X30X100X
Battery4,500mAh4,000mAh4,800mAh5,000mAh
Weight177g171g202g229g

In conclusion

While the Galaxy S21 FE is a fantastic phone, it’s difficult to recommend it until Samsung releases the Galaxy S22 series. The Galaxy S21 FE is supposed to be Samsung’s value-premium option for 2022, but we don’t currently have a flagship Samsung phone from that year to compare it to.

While the pricing of the Galaxy S21 FE isn’t outrageous, it also doesn’t entice us. The difference between the two phones is arguably bigger than $100 – battery life is much lower, and the cameras are less adept in low light.

Portrait Mode

Instead of launching a FE version, Samsung could have been better off simply decreasing the price of the original Galaxy S21. When the iPhone 13 was announced, Apple cut the price of last year’s iPhone 12 by $100, allowing Apple fans to acquire the same flagship phone for cheaper – this is not the case with the S21.

The key advantage of the S21 FE over the original S21 is that it receives an additional generation of Android upgrades as well as an additional year of security updates.

To summarize, the Galaxy S21 FE isn’t one of our top picks, but it’s still an excellent phone. Most consumers who want a premium phone on a budget will be better served with Google’s Pixel 6. That model offers a longer battery life, better cameras, and a lower price tag of $600. Just keep in mind that the Pixel 6 doesn’t include a zoom camera.

Samsung's The Galaxy S21 FE is a cheaper variant of the original S21, but it still feels pricey

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Pros: Slim design, powerful performance, lovely screen, super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, excellent camera quality in bright light, triple-lens camera.
Cons: Short battery life, poor low-light camera performance, and a higher price than the Pixel 6.

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