The official announcement may have been delayed a bit, as we expected in the fall, but Samsung did not hesitate to launch the Galaxy S21 FE just a few weeks before the launch of the next series (Galaxy S22). The philosophy behind the release of the FE (Fan Edition) versions is to offer a model with the most important features of the S Series at a better price compared to the first models and the truth is that the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is a very interesting proposal for anyone who does not particularly burn to wait for the arrival of the next generation.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE / Design - Construction
Starting from the construction, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is about the size of the Galaxy S21 and of course follows the same design line. We have in our hands the black version that admittedly gives you an elegant feeling and in fact the back does not easily fill fingers thanks to the specially processed plastic material. Clearly when you hear about plastic material the mind automatically goes to much more affordable devices, however, the company has done a very good job to make it feel solid in the hand and not be afraid in case of minor falls. Perimeter, however, aluminum has been used and the bezels between the screen and the rest of the body are visible on the front.
At the back on the upper left we find the camera module with the three camera sensors and the LED flash placed separately from it, and the positive thing is that it does not protrude much so as not to "balance" annoyingly when you leave it on a table - desk etc. At the bottom There are USB Type-C, dualSIM, speaker and microphone jacks on one side, a microphone on the top, volume and power buttons on the right, and the left side is empty of anything.
Overall it is a typical Android smartphone in terms of appearance, but we can count on the positive elements the light weight (177gr), the compact size to manage it comfortably with one hand and the small thickness (8mm) despite the fact that it hides inside 4500mAh capacity battery. Also note that its construction is certified in the IP68 protocol for protection against water and dust.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE / Screen
Unsurprisingly, the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is one of its top features. The company installed Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel size 6.4 '' with FHD + resolution (2340 x 1080) and image refresh rate of 120Hz, so you enjoy all the advantages of this technology for excellent color performance, high brightness, sharpness in bright daylight and of course the terribly smooth feel when navigating thanks to the high rate of image refresh. It should be mentioned here that the user can select either permanently activated 120Hz (higher battery consumption) or 60Hz. The viewing experience is great for movies, videos and gaming, but we would love smaller bezels.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE / Hardware - Performance
Turning to the hardware sector, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE comes with last year's top processor on the market, the Snapdragon 888 SoC and not with the Exynos 2100 of the other models in the series. We have the version with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, which are nice numbers for the average user, but we would expect the 8GB + 256GB version at this price.
Leaving aside the issue of pricing, we did not encounter any issues with the "just" 6GB of RAM in everyday use, camera operation, switching between applications, opening applications and of course gaming. We can not answer, however, from now on whether the situation will be the same after several months of use and the various updates that will be released.
At the level of biometric solutions there is the option for face recognition through the front camera and the in-display fingerprint sensor. The adjustment of both options is easy and fast, with face recognition of course "catching" only when there is good lighting in the room. Beyond that, both work quickly and reliably, although in the case of a fingerprint it would be good to have as dry fingers as possible.
In terms of sound we have 2 stereo speakers, but the quality could clearly be better in terms of volume and clarity. You can clearly make a video call and watch a video, but it is not advisable to listen more seriously for a long time (eg movies, games, music) without wearing headphones. There is no 3.5mm socket, so you are comfortable with either a wireless headset or an adapter for the USB Type-C socket.
Closing this section we will focus on the autonomy of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. The company has installed a larger battery compared to the Galaxy S21 (4500mAh instead of 4000mAh), however, the performance is generally the same. It does give you a comfortable day with a charge (normal usage conditions), but it could last a little longer if it did not consume as much energy when you are not using it. We noticed this from day one, that is, before loading several applications for our tests. Even so, we keep the fact that it lasts for a day and we hope that with the updates that will come the situation will be corrected. In the matter of charging, it should be mentioned that it supports power up to 25W wired and 15W wireless, but a charger is not included in the box, only the cable.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE / Software
The delay in the introduction of the Galaxy S21 FE may have led to "confusion" with the upcoming new series, but at least those who prefer it will have in their hands a device running the Android 12 operating system with Samsung's One UI 4.0 user interface. .
The latter has respected the functional and aesthetic changes brought by Google with the latest version of Android OS, such as for example the automatic change of the color palette depending on the wallpaper you choose. We also noticed better behavior in the system animations compared to a Galaxy S21 that is still in the Android 11 version.
Otherwise, there are no shocking changes to the software. You will see the classic Samsung launcher, pre-installed applications (Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, Samsung Notes, Galaxy Store, etc.), Samsung DeX activation options, Game Launcher and Edge on the right side of the screen with shortcuts for quick access in your favorite applications.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE / Cameras
The biggest drop in momentum compared to the other members of the Galaxy S21 series has been in the field of cameras, without this of course meaning that you can not get great shots with the Galaxy S21 FE, especially in good lighting conditions.
Samsung chose the 12MP f / 1.8 sensor triplet with OIS + 12MP f / 2.2 ultrawide 123º + 8MP f / 2.4 telephoto with PDAF and OIS for 3x optical zoom. It should be mentioned here that the sensor with the wide-angle lens is slightly smaller in size compared to the other members of the series.
In daylight we did not notice anything different from the other models. Shots rich in detail, vivid and correct colors, normal application of HDR (although unfortunately you do not see it in the preview until after shooting), reasonable use of the bokeh effect in portraits so that the artificial blur in the background does not look so fake and good Support for optical image stabilization to get clear results when the subject of your frame is in motion. We do not have any complaints from the application of the camera that offers many interesting artistic options for anyone who likes to experiment and of course includes a built-in QR scanner, as well as Pro mode for manual adjustment of various parameters (white balance, ISO, etc.).
As for the wide-angle lens, you do not completely escape the barrel effect, but this does not prevent you from getting excellent shots of open landscapes. The telephoto lens comes with a lower resolution sensor, however, the shots are still very good even when you slightly exceed the 3x optical zoom it offers
In low light conditions we face the same issues as almost the majority of smartphones in this category (say high-end one level below the premium). The main sensor can give us satisfactory shots and with the help of Night mode we can improve the final result a bit, sacrificing a little of the realism of the frame. In a word we can characterize his behavior as decent. Beyond that, the wide angle and telephoto lens lose a lot of detail and clarity, therefore, their use is not appropriate beyond casual photos.
For video capture you enjoy the possibilities of stabilization even when you do not have the Galaxy S21 FE mounted on a tripod or gimbal, always talking about good lighting conditions. The device offers the ability to shoot up to 4K at 60fps and super-slow motion in HD @ 960fps resolution, as well as the ability to switch lenses during shooting, although the change is somewhat abrupt.
Finally, the 32MP f / 2.2 sensor on the front does a fine job of standard selfies and video conferencing, without being a big deal.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is without a doubt a very good smartphone from the top shelf, but it could either be a little cheaper or a little more powerful in some areas (see RAM). The biggest issue, however, is the internal competition coming from the Galaxy S22 series next month…
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE / Technical Specifications
- 6.4 "Dynamic AMOLED 2X FHD + 120Hz screen
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor
- 6GB / 8GB RAM memory
- 128GB / 256GB storage space
- Triple camera 12MP f / 1.8 OIS + 12MP f / 2.2 ultrawide 123º + 8MP f / 2.4 telephoto (3x optical zoom)
- 32MP f / 2.2 front camera
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, 5G
- Stereo speakers
- Android 12 operating system with OneUI 4.0
- 4500mAh battery
- USB Type-C socket
- Dimensions 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm
- Weight 177gr
- Manufacture certified in the IP68 protocol