REVIEW: Don’t Overlook The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
It’s a curious choice for Samsung to release its Galaxy S21 FE so late in the game: five months after it was due, and mere weeks before the company unveiled its impressive Galaxy S22 range.
So, with Samsung’s foldables still receiving design and functionality kudos, and the S22 range sporting truly next-gen camera AI and that new car smell, it’s hard to see the humble FE getting much attention, especially with the ‘S21’ of the name rendering it instantly out of date.
But if none of that matters to you much (and it shouldn’t) you’ll find the S21 FE to be one of the best Samsung phones on the market, and at $999 for the 128GB model and $1,099 for 256GB of storage, it is also a fair bit cheaper than the most affordable S22 – which gives 128GB for $1,249.
So, what’s the difference between the Fan Edition of the S21, and the original? Not a whole lot, to be honest.
Despite being the ‘budget’ version of the S21, it actually sports a bigger battery (4,500mAh compared to 4,000mAh) and a larger 6.4-inch screen (vs. 6.2-inch). Both have AMOLED screens with a refresh rate of 120Hz, although the FE has a slightly better 2400 x 1080 resolution. The screen is bright and vibrant, and the contrast is good in different light situations, perfect for gaming or streaming.
The three camera setup is nice, with a 12MP main camera, and a 12MP ultrawide, exactly the same as the S21. The front camera is 32MP, compared to the other S21 models’ 10MP front snapper.
The S21 FE only has an 8MP telephoto camera, much lower res than the S21’s 64MP, but not as bigger deal as you’d expect. It shares the same lens as the S21, which goes some way in making up for the lower resolution. Samsung phones always take excellent, nicely saturated pics, and the S21 FE is certainly no exception. I didn’t notice anything amiss, and was able to take great photos with no discernible photography skills.
My major bugbear with this phone is the rear camera bump, which means you cannot sit the phone flat, as the sizable hump on the top left-hand corner makes the phone wobble around. I realise that a $5 phone case will fix this issue, but it’s crazy for a tech product to have something on the rear that means it cannot sit flat. Imagine a television or a speaker with this same issue. Madness!
My second, more minor issue, is with the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. I know these are going out of style, but not everybody wants to rely upon Bluetooth technology to connect wireless earbuds, nor be at the mercy of yet another product that needs to be charged most days.
Speaking of charging, the FE takes quite a long time to charge — around 100 minutes from my calculations — and battery life isn’t excellent, with a 4,500mAh battery draining quicker than I’d have liked.
But these are minor concerns. The S21 FE is a more affordable option to the S22 range, and you’d be hard pressed to notice any major differences that will have you needing to spend more for the newer option.