Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review (hands on): Pros and cons so far

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE specifications

Starting price: $699
Display: 6.4-inch AMOLED (FHD+; 120Hz)
CPU: Snapdragon 888
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
Rear cameras: 12MP major (f/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 8MP telephoto (f/2.4) with 30x Space Zoom
Front digicam: 32MP (f/2.2)
Battery dimension: 4,500 mAh
Charging velocity: 25W stressed out; 15W wireless
Size: 6.1 x 2.Nine x 0.31 inches
Weight: 6.2 oz

The Galaxy S21 FE has arrived, with Samsung taking the wraps off its lower-cost addition to the Galaxy S21 lineup. But has the window for releasing this new $699 handset already slammed close?

It's a query worth considering for the reason that launch of the Galaxy S22 — Samsung's next spherical of flagship gadgets — is solely across the corner. That method the Galaxy S21 FE no longer only invites comparisons to different Galaxy S21 models however to Samsung phones that may be in our fingers as briefly as a month from now. Even smartphone customers protecting out for the S21 FE's cheaper price could also be tempted to wait just a bit bit longer to see if the Galaxy S22 introduces considerably stepped forward features.

That's a question that should wait until the Galaxy S22 makes its first appearance, which can reportedly be at a launch tournament in February. For now, we're left to imagine the Galaxy S21 FE, a device that doesn't sacrifice too many features from the Galaxy S21 lineup, but doesn't characteristic as big a cut price in worth as you had been more than likely hoping for.

Editors' Note: We've updated our initial submit with more details about the Galaxy S21 FE, including availability information from shops and wi-fi carriers.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE cheat sheet: Biggest takeaways so far

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Price and availability

A large a part of the attraction of the Galaxy S20 FE used to be its value — it debuted at a $Three hundred cut price from the Galaxy S20. But after reducing prices on the Galaxy S21 lineup last yr, Samsung had a tougher time providing the Galaxy S21 FE for that considerable a bargain from its primary flagships.

The Galaxy S21 FE starts at $699 within the U.S. That's $A hundred less than the Galaxy S21's debut worth from remaining spring; relying on the Galaxy S21 deals to be had, chances are you'll even have the ability to find last yr's flagship for less. Unless Samsung raises the fee for the approaching Galaxy S22 — and it is a risk consistent with rumors — the Galaxy S21 FE may not charge that a lot less from Samsung's more recent flagship.

The Galaxy S21 FE goes on sale per week any further January 11. Samsung says the new telephone can be broadly to be had thru carriers and outlets in addition to via its personal on-line retailer. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all introduced plans to sell the phone, with reductions available as the phone launches if you've got a tool to trade-in. Our guide on where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE comprises details about the ones offers.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Design

With Samsung moving to its plastic-dependent polycarbonate design for the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus, there is no thriller as to what subject material the telephone maker would use for the Galaxy S21 FE. It's plastic, and whilst that's not essentially a big trade-off from the S21, there is not any attempt to cover what this telephone is encased in. A haze finish at the back of the telephone provides the Galaxy S21 FE a certified veneer, however nobody's going to confuse this telephone with a top rate handset.

The Galaxy S21 FE does undertake one of the S21's higher design prospers with the contour minimize design that properties the rear camera array. While there's a bump retaining that strip of vertically aligned lenses, it blends seamlessly into the facet of the telephone, making the array appear less outstanding.

I want the sides of the Galaxy S21 FE had been just a little bit more distinguished, though — as an alternative, they're quite slick, making the telephone arduous to carry on to. Within a couple hours of taking possession of the Galaxy S21 FE, the telephone had already slipped out of my hands a couple times, and best my cat-like reflexes kept it from tumbling to the bottom.

Like the regular S21, the Galaxy S21 FE makes use of a fingerprint reader that is embedded below the show. An overlay that appears when the phone is locked makes the sensor simple to seek out, and I've without a doubt found it extra responsive than the Pixel 6's pokey unlocking function.

The blackish graphite color of my review unit is definitely the least exciting of the Galaxy S21 FE's 4 color choices. You can also get the phone in lavender, olive and white. Lavender's the slickest-looking option for my part, however your mileage may vary.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Display

The 6.4-inch AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S21 FE is larger than the usual S21's 6.2-inch show, even though a wee bit smaller than the 6.5-inch display screen on the Galaxy S20 FE. The smaller panel does not feel particularly cramped, and I'd move so far as to mention it almost certainly makes the S21 FE more uncomplicated to make use of with one hand than the previous type.

Like the S20 FE, the Galaxy S21 FE can beef up a 120Hz refresh fee, in case you set motion smoothness to High in the instrument's Settings app. That means scrolling will glance smoother on the Galaxy S21 FE's display, which results in a better total experience with the telephone. That stated, it seems like you'll be able to handiest toggle between 120Hz and 60Hz manually; the opposite telephones within the Galaxy S21 lineup have adaptive shows that adjust on the fly. It's most likely a minor distinction, nevertheless it helps give an explanation for that $A hundred difference with the standard S21.

Watching the Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer on the Galaxy S21 FE, I believed the Sorcerer Supreme's crimson cape seemed suitably vibrant — neatly, excluding when he was strolling around the moodier sections of the multiverse. An episode of AP Bio streaming by means of the Peacock app was once also shiny and clear. 

Our checking out confirms the Galaxy S21 FE does a gorgeous excellent task with colors, because it reproduces 119.8% of the sRGB colour spectrum in natural mode. That compares to 109.2% on the Galaxy S21. Both Samsung telephones recorded Delta-E ratings of 0.29, so colors are simply as correct at the Galaxy S21 FE as they're at the costlier model.

We measured the Galaxy S21 FE's display at 700 nits with Adaptive Brightness grew to become on. That's simply shy of the Galaxy S21, which maxed out at 711 nits. And while the 795-nit iPhone 13 outshines the S21 FE, Samsung's newest telephone remains to be vibrant enough to look outdoors.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Cameras

Cameras haven't modified all that much on the Galaxy S21 FE when compared to the previous era, no less than in terms of hardware. As with the S20 FE, the brand new telephone features a 12MP primary digicam, augmented by way of a 12MP ultrawide lens and 8MP telephoto lens, with the latter shooter in a position to handing over a 30x Space Zoom. Even the apertures on those 3 lenses are unchanged from the S20 FE.

The 8MP telephoto lens appears to be like to be the most important trade-off between the Galaxy S21 FE and Samsung's same old flagship. Both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus featured a telephoto digital camera with a better answer — 64MP, in particular. While we've not had the risk to check zoom shots from the S21 with the Galaxy S21 FE, we would expect the former to be noticeably sharper.

Instead of digicam hardware, Samsung is opting for to focus on images options with the Galaxy S21 FE. The phone maker says that Night Mode has been advanced from what the Galaxy S20 FE introduced, so that footage taken in low gentle will have to be sharper and more detailed. The S21 FE also helps Zoom Lock to stay your photographs secure while you zoom in with the telephoto lens, and similar to on the regular S21, you'll be able to seize video using each the entrance and rear lenses of the S21 FE.

Speaking of that entrance digicam, it's got a 32MP sensor. That's an development on the Galaxy S21's 10MP selfie cam, and clearly a trademark of who Samsung thinks will be flocking to the Galaxy S21 FE — a more youthful target audience shopping to post self-portraits and videos to quite a lot of social networking sites.

We plan to compare the Galaxy S21 FE's digital camera to what every other fresh flagships be offering, so keep tuned to peer if this new tool ranks some of the best camera phones.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Performance and 5G

Many of the new one of the best Android phones coming out this yr will run on Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, however the Galaxy S21 FE will keep a year behind with 2021's Snapdragon 888 silicon. On the bright facet, the Snapdragon 888 is similar system-on-chip that powered all of the Galaxy S21 lineup, so you'll expect related efficiency with those models. And the three S21 telephones have been the most effective performing Android handsets we now have tested in the final year.

You make a trade-off from the remainder of the Galaxy S21 lineup whilst you opt for the FE, despite the fact that. Samsung includes much less RAM, with the 128GB base fashion of the Galaxy S21 FE sporting best 6GB to the 8GB found in the standard S21. That affects the facility to briefly transfer between apps, although not so a lot that you'll realize a major lag.

It's additionally mirrored within the benchmark scores for the Galaxy S21 FE. When we ran Geekbench 5 at the new Samsung telephone, we got a multicore score of 3,199. That's not so good as the three,302 end result the standard Galaxy S21 posted on that common performance test. The OnePlus 9, a comparably priced Snapdragon 888-powered phone that comes loaded with 12GB of RAM, posted a 3,618 rating.

In graphics testing, the Galaxy S21 FE produced equivalent numbers to the Galaxy S21. Both Samsung telephones churned out 34 frames according to second within the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited check. That's additionally the ranking the OnePlus Nine produced. It's value noting that the iPhone 13 and its A15 Bionic chip outperforms these kinds of Snapdragon 888 units, with a 55.9 fps outcome. Still, the takeaway here is that the Galaxy S21 FE can dangle its personal towards the best Android phones.

With make stronger for both mmWave and sub-6Ghz 5G, the Galaxy S21 FE should paintings simply superb on any 5G community within the U.S, identical to another Galaxy S21 style. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Battery lifestyles and charging

The battery size hasn't modified for the Galaxy S21 FE; Samsung's new telephone sports activities the same 4,500 mAh power pack as its predecessor. We have not had the software lengthy enough to run our customized battery check, by which we've got a completely charged phone surf the internet over cellular until it runs out of power, however we are hoping the S21 FE improves upon the sub-9 hour time posted via the Galaxy S20 FE.

Given the smaller display screen dimension on this 12 months's type and the improved power efficiency of the Snapdragon 888, the odds are just right that the Galaxy S21 FE will ship battery lifestyles that is nearer to the average for a smartphone.

Like the primary Galaxy S21 lineup, the Galaxy S21 FE helps 25W stressed charging, which will have to take a tired battery to a 50% price after half-an-hour through Samsung's math. You can stand up to 15W speeds whilst you rate the Galaxy S21 FE wirelessly — once more, the similar as the Galaxy S21.

There's one different charging feature the S21 FE shares with the remainder of the Galaxy S21 lineup, and you most likely won't like this one: there is not any charger included with the phone. That's extra environmentally pleasant, indubitably, but until you have got a charger lying around, you will have to buy one one by one for the Galaxy S21 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Software

The behind schedule Galaxy S21 FE release has a silver lining in one regard — you will not need to look ahead to an replace to Android 12. Instead, the Galaxy S21 FE ships with Google's newest tool already installed, along with Samsung's up to date One UI 4.Zero interface.

One UI Four introduces numerous techniques to customise the look of your telephone's house screen, icons, wallpapers and extra. Widgets get a redesign, and are more customizable, too. Samsung additionally adopted many of the privateness features Google constructed into Android 12, so that you can get signals when an app tries to use the Galaxy S21 FE's microphone or digicam. It's a greater enjoy, total. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review: Outlook

We won't have a final judgement for our Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review until we've got finished battery testing and get the risk to look how the phone's cameras measure up to what is already available in the market. On paper a minimum of, the Galaxy S21 FE seems like a promising choice to the rest of the Galaxy S21 lineup, despite the fact that the savings are not as substantial as they had been when the Galaxy S20 FE arrived back in 2020.

Ultimately, though, the largest factor working in opposition to the Galaxy S21 FE may well be one in every of timing. While this new phone is shaping as much as be a forged variation at the Galaxy S21, those telephones are about to make means for the Galaxy S22. And what turns out like a excellent price now might really feel out of date in only a month's time.

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