Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review


There’s a class within the smartphone market that has emerged over the previous few years that I’ll name “worth flagships.” Shopping for one feels a little bit like getting away with one thing — almost all of the options of a high-end system with a considerably cheaper price. Telephones just like the iPhone SE, Pixel A-series, and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE are classics of the style, combining the precise options for the precise worth on the proper time. With its second entry within the class — the Galaxy S21 FE — Samsung is just a bit off the mark on all the weather that will have made this an ideal worth flagship.

The S21 FE arrives very late within the S21 household’s product cycle, taking among the shine off of the “this 12 months’s flagship for much less” attraction. It additionally affords nearly every part you get from the usual S21, except for a pair fewer gigs of RAM, a lower-quality telephoto digicam, and a barely bigger display screen. However at $699 it’s additionally not considerably cheaper than the $799 S21. Contemplating that the S21 is usually discounted and that the S22 is prone to arrive quickly, the S21 FE doesn’t appear like a lot of a deal.

Little doubt, the S21 FE is an effective system. Its Snapdragon 888 processor and 6GB of RAM present seamless, quick efficiency for many duties. A 6.4-inch OLED display screen affords easy scrolling with its 120Hz refresh charge. And even with an enormous, vivid, excessive refresh charge display screen, its battery will take you thru a full day. It’s simply laborious to suggest it to anybody when simply $100 extra will get you the S21 — and $100 much less will purchase the superb Google Pixel 6.

Verge Rating

7.5 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Massive, excessive refresh charge display screen
  • Good telephoto digicam
  • Nice software program assist coverage

Dangerous Stuff

  • Quick charging brick prices further
  • Arrives late within the S21-series product cycle

The S21 FE’s 6.4-inch display screen includes a 120Hz refresh charge, making animations and scrolling tremendous easy.

The S21 FE includes a 6.4-inch 1080p OLED display screen that’s vivid and vibrant with wealthy blacks — basic Samsung. Bezels are very slim, and that 120Hz refresh charge makes animations and scrolling oh so easy. There’s Gorilla Glass Victus defending the entrance panel and the body is aluminum. A fast, dependable optical fingerprint scanner is embedded within the show. Thus far, so flagship.

The again is composite plastic moderately than a higher-end glass panel, however such is the case with the S21, too. The S21 FE’s digicam bump is plastic moderately than the steel end that bleeds into the chassis on the S21, in order that’s a little bit little bit of a price concession. However with the opposite high-end elements and a beautiful display screen to have a look at, this looks like a tool on the very highest rung of the midrange ladder.

this looks like a tool on the very highest rung of the midrange ladder

There’s a 4,500mAh battery on board that simply lasted via a day of average use in my testing. Energy customers could discover themselves within the single digit battery share on the finish of a day, particularly with the display screen smoothness setting at its 120Hz default. There’s no choice for a variable refresh charge, which might assist preserve battery life whereas utilizing the upper refresh charge setting — simply customary 60Hz or 120Hz.

The S21 FE helps 15W fast-ish wi-fi charging and quicker 25W wired charging. An influence adapter is just not included within the field — only a USB-C cable. The S21 FE doesn’t assist quick charging over a pc’s USB port, so if you need the perfect speeds and don’t have a appropriate energy brick available you’ll want to purchase one.

Total efficiency is great with a top-shelf Snapdragon 888 processor.

The S21 FE consists of the identical top-notch Snapdragon 888 processor as the remainder of the S21 collection, however affords 6GB of RAM as the bottom mannequin choice in comparison with the S21’s 8GB. I didn’t see this having any important impression in day-to-day use; the S21 FE opens apps shortly and leaping between them is seamless. The cellphone bought heat enjoying Name of Obligation Cellular however saved up with the motion. The one place I discover a little bit of lag is within the reside preview utilizing portrait mode on the digicam, however that’s a processing-intensive mode and I wouldn’t count on seamless rendering. For many functions, efficiency is excellent.

The S21 FE ships with Android 12-based One UI 4.0 and all the new system customization choices it has to supply. Should you set a photograph as your wallpaper, the cellphone will counsel a complementary coloration palette to use to buttons and icons. You can even scale and regulate your homescreen and lock display screen wallpaper independently. Better of all, the inventory climate app now not options conspicuous adverts on the prime of the display screen — just a few hyperlinks to clickbaity Climate Channel articles towards the underside, which I can reside with.

The S21 FE affords the identical 12-megapixel rear digicam because the S21, however its ultrawide and telephoto modules are totally different.

The S21 FE options the identical essential rear digicam — a 12-megapixel f/1.8 module with optical stabilization — as the usual S21. The telephoto digicam is totally different, although, with a a lot smaller 8-megapixel sensor and 3x optical zoom moderately than the S21’s 64-megapixel 3x hybrid digital / optical zoom. Nonetheless, it’s a stabilized, true optical telephoto digicam, and people aren’t precisely assured within the under-$800 class.

It’s potential to take 30x hybrid zoom pictures with the S21 FE, however the digicam is working with so much much less knowledge than the S21, so images at that size look (predictably) like watercolors. Pictures on the native 3x zoom look a lot better — even in dim indoor lighting, I managed to get some acceptably sharp portrait mode images with the zoom lens. That’s no small feat for a tiny sensor. Personally, I’d want if the primary digicam was the default for portrait mode moderately than the zoom, however that could be simply me.

Grid View

The S21 FE’s essential digicam performs effectively total. Pictures are vivid and saturated, as we count on from Samsung, and night time mode renders a formidable quantity of element, offered your topic isn’t transferring. It may’t fairly match the Pixel 6’s digicam for element retention, in both night time or customary taking pictures modes, and the S21 FE’s hotter, extra saturated look isn’t my favourite. It’s not the perfect digicam in its class, nevertheless it does a reliably good job.

There’s an ultrawide digicam, too, which is barely much less huge than the S21’s. The 32-megapixel front-facing digicam is a fixed-focus affair, whereas the S21’s selfie cam affords autofocus. The primary time you utilize the selfie digicam it asks you to decide on between “pure” and “vivid” coloration tones. As somebody who prefers the pure setting, I recognize that I didn’t need to dive into the menu to search out it. Each the ultrawide and selfie cameras do their jobs simply wonderful, and I don’t suspect that potential S21 FE homeowners will care an excessive amount of in regards to the variations between them and their S21 counterparts.

The elements are proper, however the worth and timing go away the S21 FE in an odd spot.

Regardless of all of these optimistic qualities I simply ran via, the S21 FE is a wonderful cellphone that is smart for only a few folks. Those that don’t have any explicit allegiance to Samsung would most likely be very pleased with the Pixel 6 for $100 much less. It meets or exceeds the S21 FE’s capabilities in nearly each method — it has a greater digicam, is constructed with premium supplies on the back and front, features a little extra RAM, and affords comparable efficiency from its new Google-designed Tensor chip. True, you don’t get a telephoto digicam (that’s reserved for the $899 6 Professional) and its prime display screen refresh charge is 90Hz, not 120Hz. If these options are value an additional $100 to you, then contemplate the S21 FE. All others ought to proceed to the Pixel 6.

If you’re a dedicated Samsung Fan, then you definitely most likely don’t thoughts paying an additional $100 for the S21 to get an additional couple of bells and whistles. Actually, you most likely have already. With its decrease price and composite again panel, the S21 is sort of already the Fan Version of the S21 collection.

The Galaxy S21 FE leaves me with little or no to complain about, however not so much to suggest it above the options

Nonetheless, there’s one thing to be mentioned for a cellphone with an excellent assist coverage (three main OS updates and 4 years of safety updates), an honest telephoto digicam, and (principally) top-shelf elements that prices effectively beneath $1,000. I’d sometimes steer potential patrons to the Pixel cellphone for quicker software program updates, however Samsung seems to be dedicated to at the very least getting the most important OS updates out sooner than in earlier years.

The Galaxy S21 FE leaves me with little or no to complain about, however not so much to suggest it above the options. Should you’ve held off this lengthy ready for it and also you don’t need to wait one other few weeks to see what the S22 may supply, then by all means purchase this cellphone. However for those who’re extra of an off-the-cuff observer than a fan, I don’t assume that is the system for you.

Images by Allison Johnson / The Verge