Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G hands-on review


The Galaxy S21 FE is finally out, and it builds on the successful Galaxy S20 FE by combining the best traits of the Galaxy S21 phones and putting them into a phone that’s more affordable and has a number of fan-favorite features.

Samsung has upgraded two of the most important aspects of the previous Galaxy S20 FE with S21 features. First, it’s the display, which now uses the brighter Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with HDR10+ support and 120Hz refresh. And then, it’s about performance – the Galaxy S21 FE utilizes the same chipsets as the S21 series – the Snapdragon 888 for the European unit and Exynos 2100 for Australia and possibly other markets.

All four cameras are copy-pasted from the Galaxy S20 FE, which is not that exciting. But thanks to the new and more powerful hardware, Samsung is promising better processing for higher photo quality (especially at night) and some clever tricks like object removal after the photo has been taken.

The Galaxy S21 FE is water-resistant as usual; it has the same 4,500mAh battery as the S20 FE; its charging capabilities are the same, too. However, it’s also thinner and lighter at the same time.

It is also among the first Galaxies to come with the latest Android 12 and One UI 4.0, and we can’t wait to see them in action.

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: International – Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm): Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680; Adreno 660. AU/other – Exynos 2100 (5 nm): Octa-core CPU (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55), Mali-G78 MP14 GPU.
  • 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, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 123˚; Telephoto: 8 MP, f/2.4, 76mm, PDAF, 3x optical zoom.
  • Front camera: 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide).
  • Video capture: Rear camera: Yes; Front camera: Yes.
  • 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 Galaxy S21 FE, just like the rest of the Galaxy S21 series, arrives with just the bare minimum – there is only a USB cable and nothing else. But some pre-orders will give you a free pair of Galaxy Buds2, which is a nice treat.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

We are glad Samsung updated the screen and the chipset, though we are not as excited about the same camera kit even if there are some new tricks in the bag. We do agree this is the optimal setup for a smartphone these days, though – a good main camera, an ultrawide shooter, and a 3x telephoto.

Finally, we cannot but acknowledge the retirement of the microSD slot – something that was available on the S20 FE and a move that will certainly angry some fans and push them away, Fan edition or not.

The S21 FE arrives almost a year after the original S21 series, and while it borrows some of the best bits about those, the Galaxy S21 5G can already be found for less money, and that Galaxy S22 reveal is literally around the corner. Both of these developments would put some serious competitive pressure on the S21 FE even within its own portfolio, so it remains to be seen how well it can handle it.

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