With the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, the South Koreans have introduced another member of the series almost a year after the launch of the S21 series. MobileGeeks has tested the smartphone in everyday life.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Processing and Screen
The Galaxy S21 FE, like the S21, has a plastic back, which is rather unusual in the price range. Many manufacturers rely on a glass back, which some customers recommend as a higher quality. Personally, I see the advantages and disadvantages in both solutions. Glass backs definitely feel higher quality, but they also make a device heavier, more slippery and can break. However, the plastic of the S21 FE feels more high-quality than those of such others. Smart Phones, which I tested last year. The frame is also made of plastic, but the buttons can be pressed well.
The highlight of the device for me is the display. This didn't surprise me, as Samsung smartphones undoubtedly have the best displays on the smartphone market. The device has a 6.4 inch small Full HD Plus AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 120 Hertz. Content looks razor-sharp and beautiful, even in daylight content can be read without any problems. The display is not an LTPO display like the panel of the Pixel 6 Pro, S21 Ultra or similar, it only regulates between 60 and 120 Hertz. The only piece of glass of the device is the display, which is protected with Gorilla Glass Victus. What should please some: The display is flat, not rounded on the sides. A film is not pre-installed, but easy to apply due to the flat display.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Performance and Connectivity
Samsung promises flagship performance with the S21 FE, i.e. no compromises. In the device sits the Snapdragon 888 with 6 or 8 gigabytes of RAM and 128 or 256 gigabytes of internal memory. The everyday performance is now identical for almost all smartphones from 300-400 euros, of course the device runs a little smoother with the 888. Due to the 6/8 gigabytes of RAM, almost all apps remain open in the background and multitasking is easily possible.
Games such as COD Mobile or emulation were easily possible with the S21 FE, but the device became noticeably warmer. Due to the weight of only 177g and the 6.4" display, the device is much better in the hand than many a flagship. I see this as an advantage, but some other customers are happy about a larger display. The smartphone has connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi 6 as well as NFC and Bluetooth 5. I had connected a smartwatch every day and tried LTE and 5G. Bluetooth ran without problems, initially the LTE reception in the basement was worse than with other smartphones. After a restart it went better, but this could be fixed by software update. The fingerprint sensor sits under the display and is not an "ultrasonic" compared to the S21, but an optical sensor. It is still fast and reliable, especially compared to the Pixel 6. The device is commendably protected according to IP68 dust and water.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Sound
The S21 FE 5G has two speakers, one at the bottom of the frame and an earcup. These provide a good, loud, but not premium sound. The sound is better than average, but not on a level with comparable Xiaomi phones. However, the speakers already reach the level of the S21 series. The same applies to the microphone, my interlocutors were able to understand me well and voice messages can also be listened to over a longer period of time. For professional recordings, however, I would buy an external microphone.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Camera
The Galaxy S21 FE has three cameras on the back. A 12-megapixel main camera with F1.8 aperture, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera (with 123-degree shots) and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens (for 3x optical zoom).
he photos are comparable to those of the Galaxy S21, but the smartphone is already a year old. Compared to the Google Pixel 6, the images of the S21 FE are clearly behind the device. Samsung's image processing tends to balance image noise, resulting in bright colors and bright, glowing images. This was already the case with the S21 series, but not so strong due to the larger and better sensors. Nevertheless, the shots with the wide angle are more than usable, sometimes even very good. Especially the night mode has made Samsung more reliable, this is now displayed more often and thus has to be activated less manually.
Meanwhile, the telephoto camera takes photos in mediocrity. It is advertised with 3-fold optical, as well as 30-fold digital zoom, but really useful are photos with a maximum of 10x zoom. The photos become soft very quickly, because with 8 megapixels not really many details are captured. But better a telephoto camera than no telephoto camera (as with the Pixel 6, for example).
Meanwhile, the front camera takes good photos, but with 81 degrees, the viewing angle is relatively narrow. If you would like to take selfies in a group, you need a long arm. An autofocus is also missing compared to the Galaxy S21 series, portraits look successful meanwhile.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Software
Samsung's OneUI 4 based on Android 12 is already pre-installed on the Galaxy S21 FE. The manufacturer promises three upgrades and four years of security updates, so you will get at least Android 15. Samsung has its own app for everything, so you have the Galaxy Store in addition to the Play Store, Samsung SMS next to Google Messages, etc. Some prefer the Samsung cosmos, I found it sometimes just annoying. But Samsung is not alone in this, BBK (Oppo, OnePlus, Realme, Vivo) and Xiaomi just don't make it so extreme.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Battery
My big praise for the S20 FE at the time was the battery, because the Snapdragon 865 compared to the Exynos model was a lot more energy efficient. This also applies to the 4500 mAh battery of the S21 FE, with which I have achieved battery life of about 4h "display to time". But since then, a lot has happened on the smartphone market, especially in terms of battery charging speed. I'm a lot more flexible on the road when I can charge for a short time. Especially other manufacturers in this area already deliver a lot more than just 25 watts of charging, as Samsung does, which sell the fast charger adapter separately for "environmental reasons". The device can charge wirelessly with 15 watts, commendable is the integration of "reverse charging", which allows other devices such as headphones on the back of the smartphone to be charged wirelessly.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Release and Availability
But my main point of criticism is the release of the device. Unfortunately, it came much too late. The technology would have been excellent at the planned launch in August 2021. Because the Pixel 6 as the biggest competitor for me was not yet on the market at that time and the S21 was still too expensive. For 479 euros at that time you would have made a very good deal and the price would have been more than justified. And now? The S22 is as good as in front of the door and the S21 is already a lot cheaper and better than the FE. Therefore, at the time of publication of this article, the price of the FE is in free fall. Sometimes you get the device for less than 650 euros, so after a week already 100 euros cheaper than RRP.
The Galaxy S21 FE is available in the colors: gray, green, violet and white for 749 and 819 euros respectively.