Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G initial review: A fan phone worth having?

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G initial review: A fan phone worth having?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE arrives at an awkward time, with the Galaxy S21 now selling for a similar price and the Galaxy S22 about to launch. But this is still a powerful phone, and while some cheaper rivals may beat it, for those looking for a more affordable Samsung flagship experience, the Galaxy S21 FE is worth a look.
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  • Great power
  • Big screen
  • Attractive phone
  • Latest software


  • No microSD card slot
  • Price and release timing are awkward

Samsung seems to have embraced the FE (fan edition) as a good thing, using it as a method of bringing another device to market with more aggressive pricing, once the flagship models are out of the way.

As with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE , the Galaxy S21 FE arrives as if it were out of the S21 mold, cheaper priced, a few tweaks here and there, but with the same experience.

The timing of the arrival of the Galaxy S21 FE raises a few questions: The S21 models aren’t much more expensive and the Galaxy S22 is about to launch, so how does this fit into the cycle?

Design and build

  • 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm, 177g
  • Plastic back
  • Gorilla Glass Victus
  • IP68

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has the same general design as the Samsung Galaxy S21 models, particularly the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy S21 + . The size of this device means that it falls between those two devices and the design differences are minor.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G

However, there is a small difference. The frame on the Galaxy S21 FE runs straight around the edges of the phone, while on the S21 and S21 +, it also runs around the edges of the camera bump in the corner. Here, the camera bulge is molded from the same piece as the back plate, more like the Galaxy A models from 2021 .

The other small difference is that the Galaxy S21 FE is quite flat at the rear, while the S21 models curve slightly towards the frame at the rear edge; given the size of the S21 FE, this doesn’t make much of a difference; in fact, we like the symmetry of the design.

The S21 FE will come in four colors: olive, graphite, lavender, white, so there is not the same variety as there was for the S20 FE, but we suspect that the graphite / black shown here will be the most popular.

It’s an attractive phone and despite having a plastic back, it feels solid and the matte finish is welcome.

To provide some protection, there is an IP68 waterproof rating , while the screen is covered in Gorilla Glass Victus, which is Corning’s top grade and should help prevent scratches. There is no factory installed screen protector.


  • 6.4 inches, 2340 x 1080, 120 Hz

With a 6.4-inch screen, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, as we said, ranks between the two smaller Galaxy S21 models. It’s a flat screen, with a single punch center aligned at the top of the page.

As usual in Samsung, it is an AMOLED panel, or Dynamic AMOLED 2X as Samsung calls it, with the option of 60 or 120Hz refresh rates. This does not have the same adaptive refresh rates that the Galaxy S21 models offer.

But it carries with it that much-favored Samsung AMOLED look on smartphones, with deep blacks and vibrant colors. We haven’t spent enough time with this device to fully evaluate the display, but first impressions are good.

One of the changes compared to the previous version of this phone is a reduction in the width of the top bezel (slightly).

One of the cool things is that Samsung ships this phone with on-screen navigation by default, which means you have to switch to Android’s gesture navigation in settings if you prefer to use it. The narrow bezel at the bottom of the phone makes gesture navigation a bit more fiddly than some devices we’ve used, but we’ll see how we adapt to this in the coming days and weeks.

There’s also an in-display fingerprint scanner and so far it seems to perform well, fast to register prints and fast to unlock.

Hardware and performance

  • Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100, 6/8 GB of RAM, 128/256 GB
  • 4500mAh battery, 25W wired / 15W wireless charging

True to form, Samsung released the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE saying it was powered by a 5nm octo-core processor, rather than specifying the details. Again, it is a device that could have Snapdragon in one location and could have Exynos in another.

For the Galaxy S20 FE this was simple: the 5G version was Snapdragon and the 4G version was Exynos. For the Galaxy S21 FE, that distinction isn’t that obvious and it looks like there will be Snapdragon and Exynos versions, with the Snapdragon 888 in Europe and the US, but with the Exynos 2100 on the list for some other regions, like Australia, and we hope it will be. in some Asian versions.

There are options for RAM and storage, although that drives up the price, and there is no option for microSD, which was in the previous device, so you will feel a loss.

The battery is a 4500mAh cell with support for 25W wired charging and 15W wireless charging. These are not the fastest rates out there and there is no charger in the box so if you want a faster charge , you will need to purchase a compatible charger.

That 25-watt wired charging is a bit slow by current standards, but Samsung seems to be happy with that, as it was with the Galaxy S21 models as well.

We haven’t spent enough time with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE to fully assess its performance, but we will be using this phone in the coming weeks to fully evaluate it.


  • Triple camera system
    • Main: 12MP, f / 1.8, OIS
    • Ultra wide: 12MP, f / 2.2
    • Telephoto: 8MP, f / 2.4, 3x optical, 30x digital zoom
  • Front: 32MP, f / 2.2

There is a fairly predictable collection of cameras on the Galaxy S21 FE. The main camera is Samsung’s 12-megapixel Dual Pixel sensor with an f / 1.8 lens. We have seen a similar layout on many Samsung phones and it is similar to the Galaxy S21 and S21 +, which we expected.

One change is the telephoto lens, which here uses a 12-megapixel sensor instead of the 64-megapixel sensor on the Galaxy S21. One of the details that you miss with this switch is that there is no option to record 8K videos here, not that that really matters at the moment.

The telephoto offers 3x optical zoom and 30x Space Zoom, which is Samsung’s name for digital zoom. We have seen all of this before and will compare it to recent devices and other Samsung models in the near future to give you a full assessment.

The front camera is 32 megapixels, again we can’t really understand why Samsung is opting for more megapixels in the front camera. There’s even the option to shoot at full resolution and we can’t see why anyone would seriously want to do that.

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we’ll give this camera system a full workout to see how it works and bring you a full review shortly.


  • Android 12
  • A user interface 4.0

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE software load is at least up to date and arrives with Android 12 out of the box . Samsung has also done well with updates to the latest generation of phones, which bodes well for the future of this device.

It comes with Samsung’s One UI 4.0, combining some of the latest Android features with the latest Samsung tweaks .

We’ve long been a fan of Samsung’s software offering as it provides many customization options, including some pulled from Android’s new Material You offering, where you can easily change the color palette to match the wallpaper. .

We will update with any performance feedback we have on the positioning of the software for this device in the near future.

First impressionsThe Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is pretty much everything you expect it to be. It takes most of the important features of the Galaxy S21 models and presents them in a slightly more economical way.

The design is a bit simpler than that of the Galaxy S21, but the power of the core and the display reach important specification points. This phone would have made a lot more sense if it had been launched in September (as the predecessor did) and it is inevitable that you can probably buy the (smaller) Galaxy S21 for the same price.

Still, for those looking for a Samsung phone, the Galaxy S21 FE will likely hit most of the experience points they want, but there’s a lot of competition, including from Google’s own Pixel 6, which has close specs and is more. cheap.

We will update with a full review in the near future.

Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.