At the beginning of the year Samsung finally, after a delay, introduced the Galaxy S21 FE, a new model for “fans” of the company. According to rumors it was almost canceled, but still saw the light just a month before the release of the flagship Galaxy S22 line. This is quite a risky move for Samsung, because the previous top models will be withdrawn from the market, their prices should go down, and the Galaxy S21 FE will have serious competition even within the manufacturer’s lineup. I will tell you in this review if the smartphone will be able to cope with it. Especially since I switched to the S21 FE right after the Galaxy S21+, and I can speak substantially about the advantages and disadvantages of one model compared to the other.
Galaxy S21 FE specifications
|Size and weight||
155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
|Operational memory and storage||6/128 GB or 8/256 GB|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|Graphic processor||Adreno 660|
|Wireless modules||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC|
6,4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Resolution: 2400х1080 pixels
Update frequency: 120 Hz
|Rear camera module||
Wide-angle sensor: 12 mp, ƒ/1.8
Ultra wide-angle: 12 mp, 123°, ƒ/2.2
Telephoto: 8 Мп ƒ/2.4
|Front camera||32 mp, ƒ/2.2|
|Operational system||Android 12, One UI 4|
|Recommended price in Ukraine||21 999 hryvnias for 6/128 GB; 23 999 hryvnias for 8/256 GB|
Design and materials
The smartphone got the design of the S21 series with all the distinctive features. On the front panel there is a cutout for the selfie camera at the top of the screen. It is slightly larger than the S21’s, but you only pay attention to this if you put the smartphones side by side. As well as the fact that the bottom frame of the screen is a little bit thicker.
The display in the Galaxy S21 FE has a 6.4-inch diagonal and is covered by Gorilla Glass Victus, which barely rounds off the edge to transition smoothly to the aluminum frame. Unlike other models of the S21 series, there is no protective film on the screen out of the box. It’s probably a way to save money, but it’s better this way than if the company had removed something more important. Especially since gluing a film or glass on the flat display is never a problem.
The back of the S21 FE is made of graphite, milky, olive, or lavender matte plastic. The metal frame oft he smartphone is the same color.
The design of the back cover of the smartphone is also taken from the S21 series, with its recognizable camera unit, slightly protruding above the body of the smartphone and smoothly passing into its top and side frame. The only significant difference is that if the S21 has a metal unit, and the FE model has a plastic one.
All the keys of the Galaxy S21 FE are placed on the right side of the body and are at a convenient height. By the way, they are also plastic, which is another simplification compared to all other models of the series.
In general, the S21 FE has an attractive design, but what I like most about the new model after the S21+ is the size of the case and the way it feels in the hand. Due of the use of a 6.4-inch screen, the smartphone is more compact (155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm), and the plastic back made it possible to achieve a weight of 177 grams. Compared to the 200-gram Galaxy S21+, the difference is really noticeable. So it turns out that the S21 FE is a bit more comfortable in everyday use. It reminded me of the Galaxy S10+ in terms of size and feel.
Another flagship feature of the Galaxy S21 FE is IP68 water and dust protection, allowing you to safely use the device in the rain and, theoretically, even lower it into water to a depth of 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes. However, it is worth noting that water getting into the body of the smartphone is still not a warranty event, so you need to be more careful with this.
The Galaxy S21 FE’s fingerprint sensor is located under the screen glass and works based on a photo sensor. To scan a fingerprint, the display illuminates a small area at the bottom of the front panel. It is conveniently located so you can even blindly hit with the thumbs of both hands.
Interestingly, the color temperature of the screen changes from warm to cold when the sensor is triggered. It’s a little unusual at the beginning of use, but then you stop paying attention. The scanner itself works very fast. Unlocking it takes less than a second and is mostly accurate.
The smartphone has a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with a resolution of 2400×1080 pixels (411 ppi), an aspect ratio of 20:9 and support for 120 Hz update rate. The latter is permanent in the Galaxy S21 FE, that is, the user can choose either 60 Hz or 120 Hz.
In other models of the series, the update rate is adaptive and changes depending on the image, if it is dynamic, it increases, and if static, it decreases. This saves battery power.
Otherwise, the display is really similar to current flagship models and offers two display modes with great factory calibration.
Natural colors (sRGB):
Saturated colors (DCI-P3):
Both modes provide coverage of over 100% of the sRGB color space, have a reference gamma of 2.2 and even screen light.
Platform and performance
The smartphone uses last year’s flagship system on a chip with Snapdragon 888 processor and Adreno 660 graphics. My version of the smartphone had 8 GB of main memory and 256 GB of built-in memory, although a 6/128 GB version exists. The model does not have microSD card support, but 128 GB in the basic configuration should be enough for most potential users.
The Galaxy S21 FE’s performance is on the same level with other flagship smartphones of the last year, and it’s more than enough for comfortable use of Android apps.
The situation with the games is similar. You can easily play popular arcade games, as well as in heavier ones, from the category of World of Tanks Blitz at maximum graphics settings. After 20-30 min of playing the device gets noticeably warm, the temperature of the smartphone rises to about 45 degrees Celsius, but this does not cause discomfort.
The throttling test shows that the processor provides 79% of its maximum performance under high load, which is a typical result for a flagship chip.
Out of the box, Galaxy S21 FE runs on Android 12 with the branded interface One UI 4.0. You can read about its features here in our article.
Other features of the smartphone platform include wireless modules Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC. Apparently, there is no new UWB standard for working with tags or unlocking cars here, if compared with the flagships, but this is unlikely to be a problem for most users. Although it would be nice to have eSIM support in the smartphone, unfortunately,it’s not provided . Although S21 FE allows you to install two nano-SIM cards, which means you can use two mobile numbers.
For maps and navigation, the smartphone uses the satellite systems A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS and GALILEO. For cars, there is support for Android Auto.
Separately, I want to talk about the vibration, which was mentioned in the comments before the first look at the smartphone. The Galaxy S21 FE really doesn’t have such advanced haptics compared to S21+, but the linear motion actuator has a pretty wide response range. Therefore, confirming actions in the One UI 4 interface or typing on the virtual keyboard feels comfortable.
It’s also worth mentioning that the smartphone has support for DeX mode, which allows you to connect your smartphone to a monitor or TV and work in a Windows-like desktop interface. In addition, you can connect a wireless mouse and keyboard to the Galaxy S21 FE. Of course, this is not a complete replacement for a computer, because DeX is a shell for Android and you can work only with mobile applications. However, if you do not have a laptop or PC at hand, this option is quite viable if you need to work with the browser, mail, and documents.
Galaxy S21 FE Cameras
The device has the same set of cameras as S20 FE, Galaxy Z Fold3 and partially Z Flip3. These are proven modules, well proven in previous models:
- 12-megapixel wide-angle with f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilization and Dual Pixel phase autofocus;
- 12-megapixel ultra wide-angle with f/2.2 aperture, 123-degree viewing angle and electronic stabilization;
- 8-megapixel telephoto with f/2.4 aperture, optical stabilization, phase auto-focus, 3x optical zoom and 30x hybrid zoom.
I’ll start with the main wide-angle camera, which takes detailed pictures in the daytime and a fairly wide dynamic range. The f/1.8 aperture is enough to capture enough light without losing sharpness.
At night, there is obviously more noise in the pictures, and details get lost. However, due to a fairly large aperture, optical stabilization and maintaining the night mode you can still take good pictures.
The 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera in the Galaxy S21 FE is capable of capturing images with a 123-degree angle of view. It automatically removes distortion and, in good light, captures images with less detail than the main camera, but with a larger scene, which is useful when taking pictures of landscapes or architecture.
At night the ultra-wide-angle camera completely relies on the work of the night mode, because neither the f/2.2 aperture, nor the lack of optical stabilization favour taking pictures in low light. However, you have to give credit to the algorithms, they significantly improve the quality of the night photos. Of course, the detail will not be the same as in the main module with a larger aperture, but viewing such pictures on the smartphone screen is enjoyable.
The telephoto camera in the S21 FE is capable of taking photos with an optical zoom to 3x and a hybrid zoom to 30x. During the day it provides a good level of detail, a fairly wide dynamic range and detects white balance correctly.
However, it’s worth noting that despite the f/2.4 aperture, you can also get quality pics at night with the telephoto module. Of course, the detail drops quite a lot and the camera has a hard time capturing moving objects, but the optical stabilization and night mode allow you to extract more light.
In general, the shooting capabilities of the Galaxy S21 FE are at a good level, especially if we mention that the modules were used back in the previous models. Samsung is not obsessed with changing cameras every year, but just gradually improves the software for them, which gives a result.
The smartphone can record video with a resolution from Full HD 30 frames per second to 4K at 60 frames per second. Here are some examples of videos shot in Full HD:
Galaxy S21 FE front camera is a 32-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture and electronic stabilization. During the day, it allows you to take good quality selfies.
But at night you need to hold your smartphone as stable as possible, otherwise the image is easily blurred.
The smartphone received stereo speakers, which sound on the same level with other models of the S21 series, which is enough to play games or watch the series without headphones. You can even use the device as a portable speaker due to surround sound, although you should not count on bass and wide imaginary scene.
You can connect headphones to the Galaxy S21 FE via USB Type-C or a 3.5mm jack adapter or wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.0.
Galaxy S21 FE autonomy
The smartphone got a battery capacity of 4500 mAh, which is enough for about 1.5 days of active use of e-mail, browser, messengers and social networks, about an hour of watching videos on YouTube and up to 30 minutes of games. This is also confirmed by the PC Mark synthetic test. According to the results, the smartphone under load and with screen brightness of 200 cd/m² lasted 9 hours and 32 minutes.
The Galaxy S21 FE can be charged via the USB Type-C port, fast charging up to 25W is supported.
In addition, it is possible to charge your smartphone wirelessly using the Qi standard up to 15 watts. However, the device itself can be used to recharge other devices through the Wireless PowerShare function.