Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Review – Strong Value
The Fan Edition is back and better than ever with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. It may have arrived late but is it worth getting in 2022? Let's find out.
+ Exynos 2100 still works great in 2022
+ Good battery life
+ Camera works great
+ 120Hz refresh rate
+ Good build quality
+ Under-display fingerprint scanner works great
+ Matte finish
- Doesn't look as good as the original S21 series devices
- No microSD card slot
- No adaptive refresh rate option
- No headphone jack
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
We can’t kick off our Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review with the unboxing. For our review unit, it only came with just the smartphone and nothing more. However, we are aware that inside the box, which is clad in white, will not have a charger. Apart from that, you can at least expect to find:
- USB-C cable
- User guide
- Warranty card
- The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE smartphone itself
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE looks essentially the same as the base Galaxy S21 model for the most part. It comes with a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a punch hole selfie camera. Unlike the S20 FE, the bezels are thinner, making it look more in line with the original variants.
Moving to the top, you have two microphone holes. As for the bottom, you have the SIM tray slot, another microphone hole, a USB-C port, and a speaker grille. There’s nothing on the left side but on the right side, you have the power button and volume rocker.
Switching over to the rear, you can see that we have the Graphite colour variant, which is essentially black with a matte finish all over it. You still get that contour-cut triple camera setup on the top-left corner that is slightly raised, but it lacks that two-toned metallic finish on it. Apart from that, the flash is positioned beside the cameras and you can see the Samsung logo towards the bottom.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE looks like what would happen if you take the base model Galaxy S21 and turn it into an A-series smartphone. It still looks good but it’s clear that all three of the original Galaxy S21 devices look better. This isn’t a problem, especially given the more affordable pricing as what’s important is what is underneath.
|Processor||Exynos 2100, 5nm
1 x Cortex-X1 @ 2.9GHz + 3 x Cortex-A78 @2.8GHz + 4 x Cortex-A55 @ 2.2GHz
|Storage||128GB UFS 3.1|
|Display||6.4″ FHD+ (2400 x 1080) Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
120Hz Refresh Rate
Eye Comfort Shield with AI-based blue light control
|Rear Camera||12MP f/1.8 wide angle camera, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
8MP f/2.4 telephoto camera, 30x Space Zoom, PDAF, OIS
12MP f/2.2 123˚ ultra-wide
LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama
[email protected], [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
|Selfie Camera||32MP f/2.2 wide-angle selfie cam, Dual Pixel PDAF|
USB-PD 3.0 fast charging
15W wireless fast charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
|Colours||Lavender, Olive, Graphite, White|
Starting off our benchmark suite with Antutu v9, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has a very strong showing as it’s one of the highest scoring devices in our list of benchmarked devices. It’s also interesting to see how it managed to beat the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Xiaomi 11T Pro, both of which are running the Snapdragon 888.
In Geekbench 5 however, the score seems to be generally lesser than Snapdragon 888 devices but not by much. The single core score is certainly admirable, though the multi-core performance is a little lacking. Nonetheless, it’s still packing quite a bit of a punch with the Exynos 2100.
Moving on the 3DMark, it’s quite interesting to see it score very high in Wild Life Unlimited given how intensive the test is, but falls shorter compared to other devices in Sling Shot Unlimited given how light it is. Regardless, it does show that the device has strong GPU capabilities with the Exynos 2100.
On PCMark’s Work 3.0 benchmark which tests out for real world use, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE performed excellently. It easily broke the 10,000 mark and it’s one of the top performers in our list of benchmarked devices.
With the battery endurance test, we had to run it twice as it doesn’t have adaptive refresh rate. This means we have to run it at 60Hz and 120Hz. With the former, the battery life is pretty good as it lasts 9 hours and 42 minutes (582 minutes) while at 120Hz, it drops to 6 hours and 47 minutes (407 minutes). The standby time is excellent so you should be able to get a full day’s worth with this easily.
If you’re interested to compare it with the base model Samsung Galaxy S21, click right here.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE uses a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display at Full HD+ resolution. You can get some superb colours with good contrast. The display can get quite bright and it’s pretty good when viewing under direct sunlight too, which is great. The display size makes it serves as a middle ground between the base and Plus models, which are 6.2-inch and 6.7-inches respectively.
As mentioned in the battery endurance test, it does have a high refresh rate option but it’s not the adaptive kind. So you can either have it in 60Hz or 120Hz constant. It’s a bit of a shame as adaptive refresh rate will let you enjoy a much smoother display while still saving on battery life. One good thing it retains is Gorilla Glass Victus, and it does have Eye Comfort Shield to reduce strain and fatigue for your eyes.
While the colours aren’t as striking as the original three models, it does have a matte finish. This is great as it will be a lot less susceptible to fingerprints and, in my opinion, makes it look better on its own. Moreover, it’s easier to hold, which is a plus if you don’t plan on using a protective case.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 is one of the first to use One UI 4 based on Android 12. It pretty much looks the same as the other recent Galaxy smartphones, with some changes from older ones include how notifications are grouped together for a more cleaner look. It’s pretty user-friendly so I doubt anyone would have trouble with it.
While the device does come with Samsung Free, I find it interesting that the left-most section of the home screen now shows Google News instead. Personally, I prefer this more but if you want the usual Samsung experience, you can still opt for Samsung Free if you wish.
Just like the main Galaxy S21 series, the under-display fingerprint scanner works great on the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. It works very fast and reliably, only failing when I forget to properly dry my hands after washing them. If I were to give a rough estimate, it takes 1/3rd of a second to unlock with just my fingers.
One downside I can point out to this smartphone is the lack of a microSD card slot. This means that whichever storage option you choose, that’s the one you will be stuck with. While 128GB is plenty in my opinion, you may want to opt for the 256GB variant if you plan on using this for a few years. Otherwise, your only other option to expand the storage is via cloud-based solution.
While using the smartphone, I’ve only had it heat up on me during the initial setup and when I play mobile games on it. For the most part, it works pretty cool and even when it does heat up, it’s just lukewarm at best.
The camera UI on the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE looks essentially similar to the one from the we’ve seen from Samsung devices last year. It’s user-friendly so most consumers won’t have trouble with it, and it’s more viable for mobile photographers and videographers who want more control of what they capture.
As usual, the Single Take feature is still here. For those of you who aren’t aware, you simply move the device around and it will take take photos, record a short video, and even edit the footage for you, up to 15 seconds. It’s useful but the results can vary quite a bit so a bit of experimentation is needed if you want to make full use of it.
As you can see above here, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE can take some pretty good photos both at night and with light. I’m sure many underestimated it given that it’s the most affordable one in the new flagship series but it’s excellent so far with good details, vivid colours and Auto HDR being rather reliable. The other two cameras may not be as good they can still produce great results nonetheless.
With the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, you have a 30x Space Zoom. To my surprise, it has gotten easier to capture shots when it’s all the way zoomed in and it’s not half bad either. However, there’s still some more work that needs to be done for it to be truly usable at that range, but it’s still something if you really need it.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE may have arrived late to the party but if you’re looking for a flagship-level device but not splurge too much, this is certainly an excellent choice. At just RM2,899, it’s worth the money and I only suggest avoiding it if you plan on getting the Galaxy S22 series.
At the end of our Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review, I award this smartphone with our coveted Gold Pokdeward.
Big thanks to Samsung Malaysia for sending us this smartphone for the purposes of this review.