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Samsung S21 FE 5G Review: It’s Good But It’s Late

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Impressive AMOLED panel
  • Good cameras
  • Good performance
  • One UI 4

Con

  • Plastic back
  • Price hiked compared to S20 FE

Samsung S21 FE 5G, a lite flagship phone from Samsung is the successor of the Samsung S20 FE.

Samsung S21 FE 5G Review
Samsung S21 FE

Samsung S21 FE 5G price in Nepal is Rs. 89,999 (8/256GB) and it launched in the 2nd week of January.

Can it be as successful as the Samsung S20 FE or is it too late to the party? Let me tell you in this review article of the Samsung S21 FE 5G.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G Specifications

  • Body: 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm, 177g, plastic back, aluminum frame
  • Protection: IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
  • Main Display: 6.4 inches Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 1080 x 2400 pixels, 120Hz, HDR10+
  • Chipset: Exynos 2100
  • CPU: Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • GPU: Mali-G78
  • Memory: 256GB 8GB RAM
  • OS: Android 12, One UI 4
  • Rear Camera: 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
    • 8 MP, f/2.4, 76mm (telephoto), PDAF, 3x optical zoom
    • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 123˚ (ultrawide)
  • Front Camera: 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide)
  • Battery: Li-Ion 4500 mAh, non-removable, Fast Charging 25W, Fast wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging, USB Power Delivery 3.0
  • USB: 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
  • Misc: Fingerprint (under display, optical), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
  • Colors: White, Graphite, Lavender, Olive

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G Price in Nepal: Rs. 89,999

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G Review

Simplified S21 Design

  • 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
  • 177 g
  • Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
  • Plastic back, Aluminium frame

Samsung S21 FE looks physically the same as the Samsung S21. It is slighlty larger and lighter than the S21 though.

Samsung S21 FE 5G Review
Samsung S21 FE Design

Like the S21, it has a plastic back and aluminum frame along with an IP68 rating. While it uses the same design as the S21, the camera module has been slighlty simplified. The side frame of the S21 FE doesn’t wrap around the camera module.

Also, the plastic back of the S21 feels a bit more premium than the S21 FE even though both of them are plastic.

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For ports and buttons, it has the same layout as the Samsung S21 which means it skips the support for MicroSD. On the bottom, it has a sim slot, mic, USB Type-C, and a speaker. The second speaker is tucked on the top bezel whereas the power button and volume button are on the right side.

Last but not the least, it also has an in-display fingerprint sensor like the S21 but it is an optical sensor. Overall, the S21 FE has a good build and its design is better than that of the S20 FE.

Awesome AMOLED Display

  • 6.4 inches Dynamic AMOLED 2X
  • 1080 x 2400 pixels
  • 120Hz

S21 FE also has a 6.4 inches FHD AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support. The display panel looks the same as the S20 FE but the bezels are slightly thinner and it has better screen protection in Gorilla Glass Victus.

Samsung S21 FE 5G Review
Samsung S21 FE Display

The panel of the S21 FE has good color reproduction, awesome brightness, and good viewing angles. It’s very hard to find a difference between regular S21’s and S21 FE’s display. But one of the differences is that the S21 FE doesn’t have an adaptive refresh rate. So, it either runs on 120Hz or 60Hz all the time with a couple of exceptions.

It also has a slight upgrade interms of response rate as it can enjoy a 240hz touch sampling rate during gaming. This makes S21 FE’s display a bit smoother than that of the S20 FE.

Good Performance

  • Exynos 2100
  • Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Mali-G78
  • 256GB 8GB RAM

Inside, S21 FE is powered by the same Exynos 2100 chipset.

Samsung S21 FE 5G Review
Exynos 2100

Exynos 2100 is a 5nm chipset that is similar to the Snapdragon 888. Both of them use the same architecture and CPU. The major difference is their GPU.

This chipset uses ARM’s X1 prime core clocked at up to 2.91 GHz alongside a trio of Cortex-A78 cores running at 2.8GHz and four power-efficient Cortex-A55 cores working at 2.21GHz. It uses the ARM Mali-G78MP14 GPU. Along with this, it now has 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.

Samsung S21 FE 5G Review
Samsung S21 FE Gaming

S21 FE runs butter smooth in terms of normal usage such as web browsing, social media, and normal navigations. It doesn’t break a sweat if you use multi-window with multiple apps too.

If you are coming from an S20 FE with Exynos 990 then Exynos 2100 is a good upgrade but the same cannot be said if you are coming from Snapdragon 865 variant.

For the gaming test, we ran two games: PUBG Mobile and COD Mobile. COD Mobile can be played at max settings and we were getting an average fps of 58.3 with few frame drops. After 30 mins, the average frame dropped to  57.6 fps.

Likewise, we achieved an average fps of 59.5 in PUBG Mobile. The game was tested at Smooth graphics and Extreme fps configuration though you can play up to HDR graphics at Ultra fps setting. PUBG Mobile did not have noticeable frame drops but the average fps started to drop after an hour of gaming.

Smooth Camera

  • Rear Camera: 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
    • 8 MP, f/2.4, 76mm (telephoto), PDAF, 3x optical zoom
    • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 123˚ (ultrawide)
  • Front Camera: 32 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide)
Samsung S21 FE 5G Review
Samsung S21 FE Camera

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is rocking a similar camera setup as the Samsung S20 FE. It has 3 cameras on the rear with a 12MP main sensor, an 8MP telephoto lens, and a 12MP ultrawide angle sensor.

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NORMAL IMAGES

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Photos from the main sensor have an excellent dynamic range and photos have good detail along with the saturated color profile. S21 FE’s images are on par with images from the S21 but on closer inspection, the images from S21 have slightly more detail.

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The ultrawide angle images also look sharp with nice detail. However, the dynamic range on the S21 feels better than the S21FE when it comes to ultrawide photos. Moreover, distortion correction is really good on ultrawide photos.

ZOOM

S21 FE takes zoom photos from the 8MP telephoto sensor. The 3X shots are almost identical in quality to the normal photos with minimum loss in detail. The image processing of the Exynos 2100 provides S21 FE with better zoom photos than the S20 FE.

You can go 10X, 20X, and up to 30X but photos lose quality at this zoom range. You can use it to take a closer look at the subject but it is not usable.

LOW-LIGHT IMAGES

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Even without night mode, the details of low-light photos are good. Noise reduction doesn’t seem too aggressive which helps to preserve detail but this leads to graininess. Exposure is nice and the dynamic range is also pretty wide.

Night mode helps to reduce noise but it will lead to loss of detail. It does help to lift shadows and mid-tones though. Also, exposure is better with the night mode.

PORTRAIT

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There are two zoom levels on S21 FE’s portrait mode just like the S21 but the S21 FE zooms more than the S21. The portraits from the S21 FE look natural with good background blur and decent subject separation. In comparison, the portraits of S21 look best with better exposure whereas the S20 FE’s portraits are not as good as S21 FE.

SELFIES

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Moving on to the 32MP front camera, the S21 FE takes sharp selfies with a natural color tone which is unlike Samsung.

The dynamic range is wide but the color is not as saturated as the main sensor. Portrait photos look nice with good background blur and great edge detection. The front camera can also keep highlights under control.

Video

As for videos, it is capable of capturing videos up to 4k 30fps from all three sensors and up to 4k 60fps from the main sensor.

4k 30fps videos have really nice detail with pleasing colors and excellent dynamic range. The stabilization is also good. The 4k 60fps footages lose detail and you will notice some noise. But 60fps videos are smoother than 30fps videos.

In our comparison, the 4k footages of S21 FE and S21 did not have much difference and the 1080p 30fps footages of the S20 FE, S21 FE, and S21 looked similar.

Battery Life

  • Non-removable Li-Po 4500mAh Battery
  • 25W charging

S21 FE has the same 4500mAh battery as the Samsung S20 FE with 25W charging support. However, it doesn’t come with a charger in the box.

S21 FE has a pretty good battery life as I was getting around 6 hours of screen-on time with an hour of gaming. Interms of charging, the 25W charger can take the S21 Fe from 0 to 50% in 32 mins.

Speaker & Security

There’s a dedicated speaker on the bottom and the earpiece works as a second speaker. The audio quality from the combination of these two is really good. The vocals sound clean and the highs are kept under control. The bass is limited though.

Clean UI

  • Android 12
  • One UI 4

Samsung S21 FE runs on the Android 12 with One UI 4. It’s the first phone to come with One UI 4 out of the box.

One UI 4 brings some quality of life updates with the new color palette theme. This feature creates a color palette from the wallpaper and lets users choose between various color themes. The color is applied to the brightness slider, quick toggles, and icons.

The brightness slider has also been updated on the One UI 4 and the One UI 4 also has new features like a Privacy Dashboard. One of the better changes has been made to the camera UI. It feels easier to use and beginner-friendly than the previous iteration.

Should You Buy Samsung S21 FE 5G?

Samsung S21 FE is a great device and I won’t stop you from buying it if you have already decided on it. However, there are a couple of key things you should consider.

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First, the starting price of the S21 FE in Nepal has received a bump compared to the S20 FE. S20 FE’s starting price was Rs. 69,999 (8/128GB) and Rs. 74,999 (8/256GB) whereas the S21 FE 5G starts at Rs. 89,999 for the 8/256 GB variant. So, it doesn’t provide the same value that S20 FE was able to provide for the price.

Second, the S20 FE was launched almost 4 months before the launch of the S21 series. But, S21 FE has been launched very close to the launch of the S22 series which should be launching in a month’s time. So, it makes more sense to wait for the S22 series or at least wait for discounts on the S21 when the S22 launches.

Hope you like our Samsung S21 FE 5G review. If you have any questions regarding the device, you can leave them in the comments!


Also, check out our review of the Samsung 5-in-1 convertible Hot & Cold AC.


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