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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review

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The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE truly challenges the idiom “better late than not”: Arriving around five months after its expected arrival, and eleven months and one week after other phones in the Galaxy S21family, the S21 FE arrives just a month before the next-gen Galaxy S22 range.

This phone is the budget version of the Samsung Galaxy S21 range. It offers the same features and specs as the main S21 series, but with a few downgrades that most users won’t notice. The Fan Edition phone is not the first Samsung phone (it should also be noted that the Galaxy S20FE was very popular).

Prices and availability

Design

Display

Camera

Performance and specifications

Software

Battery Life

Should it be bought?

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FEE (Instalments 128GB), $0 upfront, 4GB data at $46.21 per Month from Mint Mobile. (opens in a new tab

The price is an issue right away. Although the S21 FE is meant to be the budget phone in its family, as indicated by the FE in its name, it arrived so late in the S21 range that it is now full price while other phones have been reduced. The Galaxy S21, an older phone with better specs and features, can be purchased for less (assuming that you find a great deal below $600). Rick Rossovich said in Top Gun that “no points are given for second place.”

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The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE price issue is a shame. This mobile could still be a compelling buy at a lower price. You can find phones with the same screen specs, processor and camera capabilities for less these days.

The mobile’s price isn’t the only problem. Even with wireless charging, the phone is slow to charge and doesn’t last as long between charges. To ensure that the phone would last a full day, we had to limit our normal usage.

The software was also slow. Swiping between menus and closing or opening apps took much longer than on a regular mobile phone. This is not surprising considering the phone’s processor and screen refresh rate. However, this is not the first time that Samsung’s One UI behaves like this.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE isn’t a bad phone. That’s why we gave it a mixed rating instead of a negative. The S21FE screen was bright and vibrant, which made it enjoyable to watch content. The powerful processor is great for gaming and the cameras are capable of taking most photos we took.

The phone might be worth the price if you can get it as part of a bundle. It’s difficult to recommend the phone at its initial price. For stronger options, see our guide to the top Samsung phones.

Samsung Galaxy S21FE Price and Availability

(Image credit: Future)

After being revealed atCES2022 a week earlier, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE was put on sale on January 11, 2022. Many incentives were offered by retailers in the US and UK to encourage purchase, such as free headphones or in-store credits.

There are two storage options for the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. There are two storage sizes available for the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. The first is the 6GB RAM with 128GB storage, which costs PS699 / $699 / AU$999. The second model, which has 8GB RAM with 256GB storage, costs PS749 / $769.99 / AU$1,099.

The Galaxy S21 was launched at $799 / PS769 / AU$1,249 8GB/128GB. However, as of this writing, it is easily found for PS649 / $549 / AU$949 (even cheaper during sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

While some Samsung Galaxy S21FE deals may make the phone more affordable, they are not enough to make the phone worth it.

Additionally, mid-range phones such as the Realme GT and Moto H200, pixel 5 and iPhone SE (2021) are much cheaper and have comparable specs, making them more attractive mobiles.

It’s difficult to not feel that the Samsung Galaxy S21FE’s cost is excessive for the quality you get, especially considering the fact that you could buy the S21 for a lower price.

Design

(Image credit: Future)

It’s easy to confuse the Galaxy S21 FE and its non-FE siblings. The Galaxy S21 FE is a dead ringer for its vanilla and Plus members.

The FE uses the same rear camera as the S21, Contour Cut bump to hold its three lenses, and the same Contour Cut bump for the camera. The only difference is that the FE uses plastic around the rear cameras, while the S21 uses metal.

This is a plastic phone. Or maybe it should be called Glasstic. Samsung’s marketing term is Glasstic. However, its similarities to glass, a common material for smartphones, end with the name. A plastic phone has its pros and cons. It’s easier to hold and more durable, but it can feel a bit cheap in your hand.

The FE’s volume rocker and power button are located on the right side of the phone. We found them easy to access when we were using the phone. You will need to use a USB to 3.5mm adaptor or Bluetooth headphones to hear music.

It’s a slim mobile that is almost as thin as the S21. It also has the same thickness, which makes it quite comfortable to hold in your hand. Samsung has clearly not wasted any space. This is also evident in the bezel, which is the space between the screen and the edge. It’s extremely thin.

There are four Samsung Galaxy S21 FE color options: black, white and pink. We tested the green one.

Display

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S21 FE has a 6.4-inch display. It is between the 6.1-inch S21 Plus and the 6.7-inch S21 Plus. Like those phones, it also features a 1080 x 2240 resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate.

Another similarity is the Dynamic MOLED 2X screen tech. This is basically a Samsung marketing term that refers to a type AMOLED panel that first appeared in the Galaxy S20 phones. This screen is bright and vibrant, which, as we have experienced it, is a lot of tech fluff.

The Galaxy S21 FE’s strongest suit is its screen. The screen is stunning in terms of colors, contrast, brightness, and brightness, making streaming TV shows and playing games on the phone easy.

The display is being broken up by a cutout for the front-facing camera at the top edge. It’s not too large, so it doesn’t take up much space.

Cameras

(Image credit: Future)

Although some specs may be different, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE’s camera performance compares well to the S21 Plus and S21 Plus. There are more similarities than differences, in fact.

This main snapper is a 12MP main cam and the 12MP ultrawide are both holdovers from S21. The S21 has a 64MP telephoto lens, but the S21 FE has only an 8MP.

Although this telephoto snapper may have a lower resolution than the S21, it is actually paired with the exact same lens which allows for either 1.1x optical zoom or 3x hybrid zoom. This will not make much difference to most people.

The front of the phone has a 32MP snapper, which is an improvement on the 10MP model. However, resolution is not the only measure of quality.

The main camera photos were very vibrant, which is quite common for Samsung phones. It’s evident that Samsung’s scene optimization software never heard of saturation. Despite this, photos taken in well-lit environments look great on the main camera and are instantly worthy of social media.

(Image credit: Future)

We appreciate the fact that all three cameras captured photos with a different color profile. Many phones don’t have this in sync so switching between standard and zoom shots can impact how colors and brightness look. We could guarantee that shades would look identical regardless of the zoom level for the S21FE.

There are many videography and photography modes that were available on previous Samsung phones. These include Single Take, which takes a photo with multiple lenses simultaneously so you can choose the best, and Dual Recording which allows you record video from both a front and rear camera simultaneously.

The front camera’s snaps were impressively bright and detailed even in low light settings. We avoided Portrait mode because it sometimes applied the digital background blur incorrectly. It was also great at balancing contrast and exposure to differentiate the subject from the background.

The only criticism we have is that the autofocus on the rear camera was not very good for close-up subjects. This applies to both flowers that are very close and pets that are at a distance. You can switch it while you take a photo, but furry friends often don’t have time to manually adjust the focus.

Both the rear and front cameras can record video at 4K resolutions and 60 fps. This is expected from the rear camera but a surprise to the front one as few phones can do 4K selfie recording. The Galaxy S21 can record 8K video. We are not disappointed.

Camera samples

Image 1 of 5

Standard picture of a park (Image credit to Future)

The same image of a park taken with an ultra-wide camera (Image credit to Future)

Indoor shot with a beautiful saturated Christmas tree. Image credit: Future

A selfie taken with the camera. Image credit: Future

This is a standard image. We had to use the autofocus quite a lot to capture it. Even so, only one of these flowers is in focus. (Image credit: Future)

Performance and specifications

It’s not surprising that the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE will be the last phone to use the Snapdragon 888 processor. The 888 was the most powerful Android processor for much of 2021. However, the Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 is being used in a few phones.

The 888 chipset, which is 5G-enabled, means that the Galaxy S21 FE can be connected to next-gen networks if it has a 5G contract or you live in an area that allows it. You can also pair the chip with either 6GB or 8GB RAM depending on which model you choose.

Although it is not the most powerful or the most recent chipset, there are very few differences between the Snapdragon 8888 and its predecessors. The former is still an extremely powerful processor that can run demanding apps without much effort.

The phone performed well when we took it for a spin while playing some games. It was quick to load, had top graphics options, and didn’t freeze or lag.

While the phone can be used for mobile gaming, it is also good for streaming media. However, we recommend headphones. Why? We found it easy to cover the speaker of the phone when it was held horizontally.

Software

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S21 FE runs Android12 with Samsung’s One UI 4 overlay. Android 12 is more customizable than previous versions, especially in the ability to choose a color scheme for menus and icons. One UI 4 makes this possible.

Navigation of the FE’s menus should be easy thanks to the screen refresh rate, RAM, and processor. However, this was not the case in our experience. Swiping between home pages, opening app, and unlocking the phone felt slow, especially when using gesture navigation. Particularly, the phone’s search function to locate a specific app was slow.

This is something that not everyone will notice. The phone isn’t slow at all, but it’s worth noting that the phone isn’t as responsive as you would expect given its specs. This is something we would be remiss as tech reviewers if we didn’t mention.

It should be noted that the phone’s menus were not affected by this slowness. The phone was responsive when using apps.

 

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