S21 FE 5G The Galaxy S20 FE sprang out of nowhere and quickly took over the market. Because the phone was so “epic,” Samsung boldly debuted the 5G version in India over six months after the worldwide launch, and still managed to outperform the competition. If the device was able to crack the basics and give an experience generally reserved for a more premium tier, at a more accessible price point, it proved that there was demand for another category of smartphones – between flagship and flagship killer.
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According to Samsung, the S20 FE was born out of a spreading epidemic that (has) rendered phones an essential need for business, recreation, you name it. A replacement was eagerly anticipated. After months of leaks and conjecture, it is finally here. The Galaxy S21 FE is, unsurprisingly, its name. It was meant to go live much sooner, but worldwide supply chain concerns appear to have caused a delay. With the introduction of the Galaxy S22 series approaching (perhaps as soon as February), the timing may play a spoiler for the S21 FE.
Before we get into what’s new, we need to speak about the cost, which is bound to raise a few eyebrows. Samsung has introduced the Galaxy S21 FE 5G in India for Rs 54,999 (8GB/128GB). The phone’s top-end 8GB/256GB variant will put you back Rs 58,999. When you consider the Exynos 2100 processor, which is included in all S21 series phones, you can’t help but wonder whether Samsung has shot itself in the foot. Is the Galaxy S21 FE 5G truly worth the price tag?
We’ll attempt to answer these questions in our review, but keep in mind: The S20 FE 5G will be available in March 2021 with a market operating price of Rs 55,999. This was for a model with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The S21 FE isn’t pricey, for what it’s worth. Yes, the price might be slightly cheaper, but you have to understand that the world isn’t what it used to be, and obtaining those parts – those chips and so on – is lot more difficult now than it was at the outset of the epidemic. Today, no brand that dabbles in technology is immune to this. It’s astonishing how Samsung has managed to resist the temptation to raise the price of the S21 FE. In comparison, the S21 costs Rs 64,999, while the S21 Plus costs Rs 76,999. Obviously, you can purchase them cheaper online, but good luck locating them. You will ultimately be able to purchase the S21 FE for a reduced price. That is how Samsung phones operate.
So, what is the S21 FE 5G’s purpose? It’s really a stopgap measure until the S22 arrives, but it should help Samsung maintain the momentum it’s established with the S21 Ultra (at the higher end) and S20 FE (entry-level). With no new Note scheduled for 2021, every effort matters. It may not be an outright winner like the original, but the sequel is clearly more than the sum of its parts (and cost), which makes it just as intriguing, if not more, than the first. To cut to the chase, don’t dismiss the S21 FE just yet.
In general, the S21 FE is “new” in three ways. It boasts a new design, a brighter display, and a quicker processor. The rest is quite familiar, which is to say that it’s all still really nice.
Design and Display
Like last year, the emphasis is on taking some of the greatest elements of the S21 series (S21, S21 Plus) and deleting everything that would otherwise add expense. This is more visible in the S21 FE’s general design than anything else.
In terms of construction materials, it is more similar to the vanilla S21 FE 5G . This signifies it’s made of a mix of plastic, metal, and glass. The back panel is entirely made of polycarbonate. The frame is constructed of aluminium. Corning Gorilla Glass Victus is used on the front. As far as entry-level flagships go, this is as high-end as it goes, so there’s nothing to complain about there.
The S21 FE exhibits clear traces of cost saving in terms of aesthetics. Samsung has attempted to replicate the entire contour-cut formula of the S21 series, which we all like, but the whole thing appears to be an afterthought here. Samsung’s acceptance of the camera bump, giving it its own characteristic tint and then smoothly blending it with the frame, demonstrated character and personality. The S21 FE, on the other hand, looks to be a low-cost counterfeit. It doesn’t help that Samsung selected some of the most unappealing colour palettes to go with it. The S20 FE was certainly a more appealing product. We’re still thinking about how refreshing its mint variant felt.
The ergonomics of the S21 FE make a powerful reappearance. It’s significantly smaller and more portable. In compared to the S20 FE, it is smaller (6.4-inch vs 6.5-inch), thinner (7.9mm versus 8.4mm), and lighter (177g versus 190g). This is combined with a matte finish on the back and slight curves that blend smoothly into the frame (which is also soft to the touch). Meanwhile, the front is perfectly flat. It’s a joy to handle this phone, and chances are you’ll fall in love with it as well. Compact phones are becoming increasingly rare, and while the S21 FE isn’t exactly a micro phone, it’s difficult to tell the difference. All we can say is that Samsung has nailed the in-hand sensation on this one.
IP68 dust and water resistance completes the package. This was also available on the S20 FE.
The S21 FE 5G ‘s display bears the same “Dynamic AMOLED 2X” branding as the other S21 FE 5G series phones. On a technological level, it’s not the same, but it’s a step up from the S20 FE’s rather plain “Super AMOLED.” The increase in peak brightness is the most appealing feature. It’s 1200nits. It’s a typical Samsung display, which means it works as claimed. It’s quite impressive, with plenty of contrast and wide viewing angles. The 1080p panel can refresh at a rate of up to 120 frames per second. However, unlike the other S21 phones, this is not adaptable. Playback of HDR10+ material is supported. This is supported by applications such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The optical in-display fingerprint scanner is quick and generally dependable.
Another change, which may not be as obvious to those who haven’t seen the S20 FE, is that Samsung has eliminated the “annoying” silver accent around the hole punch on the S21 FE 5G (there is also no screen guard this time), which those who are picky about symmetry will welcome. The bezels surrounding the display are likewise rather consistent. Samsung has basically left nothing out. What you get is a high-quality display housed inside a sturdy chassis.
Camera and performance
The Exynos 2100 chip is housed within that chassis. This is possibly the most contentious aspect of the S21 FE 5G. That’s because this phone has a second personality based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 CPU. With Samsung resorting to Qualcomm CPUs in recent releases such as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Flip 3, as well as the fact that the S20 FE 5G arrived with the Snapdragon 865, many purchasers would expect something similar with the S21 FE 5G . That is correct. However, Samsung’s decision to choose Exynos over Qualcomm may be a blessing in disguise in this situation.
The Snapdragon 888 is a resource glutton and difficult to cool, which is made much more problematic inside tiny and light phones like the S21 FE. The Flip 3 is an excellent example. In other words, unlike the Snapdragon 865, the Snapdragon 888 is not a clear winner. The Exynos 2100, while not as powerful, can provide greater value with a better balance of performance and thermal efficiency. All of this bodes positively for battery longevity as well. Something we discovered when reviewing the S21 Ultra and S21 Plus.
That’s not to claim the S21 FE 5G doesn’t throttle, gets hot, or has great battery life. Not at all. But it doesn’t let you down or leave you wanting more in any of these areas, which says volumes about how far Exynos has gone, to the point where we can recommend it rather than ignore it just because it’s, well, Exynos. However, perspective must alter. Hopefully, the next flagship Exynos processor, which will include an AMD GPU, will expand on this. While options are desirable, monopolies are never a smart idea.
Speaking of which, let us briefly walk you through the phone’s intricacies. To begin with, there are no huge red flags, which is a positive sign. You get 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of non-expandable UFS3.1 storage.
The S21 FE 5G has a buttery smooth feel to it, runs demanding games well, and does not become toasty even when pushed. That is also when it tends to throttle a little. But not in a worrisome way. It, too, takes its time, which is to say that it is not immediate. And especially not in such a random fashion as to ruin the experience. What does it imply in practise? In normal use, you may never notice any discernible latency in this phone. Frame rate dips are also scarcely perceptible until you play a graphically demanding game for more than 20-30 minutes. Another major advantage of this phone is that the battery life does not drop dramatically during peak gaming sessions.
Battery life, on the overall, is good. It has the same 4,500mAh battery as its predecessor, but owing to the upgraded processor, it performs somewhat better. In our battery loop test, the S21 FE lasted 10 hours with the screen set at 120Hz, which is a decent performance for an Exynos Galaxy.
Samsung is keeping with 25W fast wired charging, however unlike the S20 FE, which came with a 15W charger in the package, the S21 FE 5G comes without one at all, which is disappointing. This phone also supports 15W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging.
Software is one area where Samsung has recently hit all the right notes. Again, the S21 FE 5G is an excellent example of this. The phone will be released with Android 12-based One UI 4, and three years of OS upgrades and four years of security updates are guaranteed. Stock Android nerds would be hard pressed to tell if this phone is running Android 12 because there are so many layers on top of it, but believe us when we say that everything from endless customisation via colour palettes and widgets to granular privacy guards including microphone and camera indicators are all present and functional.
The cameras on the S21 FE are identical to those on the S20 FE. It includes a 12MP main sensor with Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS behind a 26mm wide f/1.8 aperture lens. This is joined by a 12MP sensor hidden behind an f/2.2 aperture ultra-wide-angle lens and an 8MP telephoto camera (with OIS). We expected the new processor to deliver faster processing, and Samsung did not disappoint. Despite using the identical combination of sensors, the S21 FE 5G consistently takes superior images in all lighting conditions.
In favourable light, the primary sensor produces photographs with warm and pleasant, albeit slightly oversaturated, colours, a lot of detail, and a superb dynamic range. The ultrawide-angle lens, too, produces comparable images with tones that are essentially in sync with the primary sensor. The S21 FE 5G can only go as far as 1.1x optically, but 3x hybrid zoom photographs are adequate. On paper, it can snap photographs with up to 30x magnification, but that’s simply software overkill.
But it’s in low light that the cameras on the S21 FE really shine. In 9 out of 10 cases, Samsung’s night mode produces brilliant and detailed photographs in difficult and low-light situations. The same can be said about the phone’s portrait mode. Subject isolation is quite accurate.
Video recording is also excellent. The phone’s 4K @30fps and 60fps films are clear, detailed, and have great all-around stabilization.
In normal lighting conditions, the front-facing 32 MP camera takes detailed selfies.
Overall, the S21 FE boasts one of the greatest camera systems in its pricing range.
Buy now S21FE