Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review

Introduction

The Galaxy S21 series will not go gentle into the night. On the contrary, it will produce one last bang before the Galaxy S22 steals the spotlight. The last of the S21 series caters to the true fans of the brand and combines all Galaxy S21 essentials into one powerful no-nonsense smartphone. Yes, this is the Galaxy S21 FE 5G.

Samsung has focused on three fan-favorite features for this Fan Edition – display, performance, and camera. And it has tried to give more of those for less, a job best suited for the flagship-killer kind. We surely are not calling it that, but the S21 FE does sound quite promising as an almost-there-flagship.

The Galaxy S21 FE updates the display with the S21’s screen panel. It offers a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X with native HDR10+ support and a 120Hz refresh rate. The Galaxy S20 FE’s Super AMOLED had no HDR capabilities, and it was disappointing back then.

Then there is performance – quite expectedly, the Galaxy S21 FE offers the same hardware as the rest of the S21 series – either the Snapdragon 888, or the Exynos 2100 chipset. But the chipset segmentation is reversed here – the international model is the one with the Snapdragon, while Samsung’s silicon is limited to Australia (so far).

Finally, let’s talk about the camera department. It looks like a copy-paste from the Galaxy S20 FE – a 12MP primary, another 12MP camera for ultrawide photos, and an 8MP tele for 3x optical zoom. The selfie imager is likely the same, too, a 32MP one. Samsung is not advertising the hardware as more capable, but it brags with better processing and cool features like Object Eraser – all possible thanks to the new chipset.

The stereo speakers and the UD fingerprint scanner are here to stay, too, but the microSD slot didn’t make the cut. It is one of these fan-favorite features that will not be accepted well among the community, that’s for sure. But on a positive note – the S21 FE now features a proper proximity sensor instead of a virtual one, something that should solve the numerous complaints.

Waterproofing is a vital part of the Galaxy S series, and the S21 FE is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance. Its design resembles the rest of the Galaxy S21 phones, and its build is a match to the vanilla Galaxy S21 flagship – a Gorilla Glass Victus front, an aluminum frame, and a matte plastic back.

Here is a rundown of the specs sheet.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G specs at a glance:

  • Body: 155.7×74.5×7.9mm, 177g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), plastic back, aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins).
  • Display: 6.40″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1080x2400px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 411ppi; Always-on display.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm) – Version 1, Exynos 2100 (5 nm) – Version 2: Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680) – Version 1, Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55) – Version 2; Adreno 660 – Version 1, Mali-G78 MP14 – Version 2.
  • Memory: 128GB 6GB RAM, 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM.
  • OS/Software: Android 12, One UI 4.
  • Rear camera: Wide (main): 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm, 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 123˚, 1/3.0″, 1.12µm; Telephoto: 8 MP, f/2.4, 76mm, 1/4.5″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom.
  • Front camera: 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.74″, 0.8µm.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60fps, gyro-EIS.
  • Battery: 4500mAh; Fast charging 25W, 50% in 30 min (advertised), Fast wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging, USB Power Delivery 3.0.
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); NFC; Bixby natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified).

The most notable omissions of this new Fan Edition are the 3.5mm jack (not available on the S20 FE) and the microSD slot (available on the S20 FE). We would have liked one of those 10MP AF selfies instead of the 32MP Quad-Bayer snapper, too, but we guess that’s going on the S22 FE wish list instead.

There is no cheaper 4G version of the Galaxy S21 FE, like it was with the S20 FE, which is possibly another bummer for some users. We guess the 5G has become the new norm and cheaper 4G versions in the future are highly unlikely.

Unboxing the Galaxy S21 FE

Apple has started something that Samsung quickly adopted, even though consumers don’t appreciate it. Yes, we are talking about the ‘eco-friendly’ cost-saving retail box, which contains only a cable and some paperwork.

That’s exactly what you get with each Galaxy S21, and that’s what the Galaxy S21 FE 5G retail box contains. The phone supports 25W fast charging, but if you want to enjoy that and you haven’t purchased such an adapter yet, now is a good time to do it.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

The good news is that once you buy such a charger, you can use it for your next phone a year or two from now. Plus, it can charge plenty of electronics because of its USB-C port and USB-PD support.


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