Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Review


Earlier this year, Samsung took the wraps off its last smartphone in the Galaxy S21 series – the Samsung Galaxy S21FE (Fan Edition) in India. Did you know that Samsung’s first Fan Edition (FE) dates back to Note 7? However, Samsung did not launch the Note 7 Fan Edition outside its home market, South Korea.

In general, the Fan Edition or FE will have essential elements of the Galaxy S series but at a lower price. Meaning, Samsung offers features that most fans want in their phone while leaving out certain aspects they do not care about.

With S21 FE, Samsung has emphasised on three aspects – display, camera, and performance. I have been using the device for quite a while now as my daily driver. In this review, let us find out if this phone is worth your money and if there is indeed any compromise done.

Box Contents

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
  • USB Type-C cable
  • SIM ejector
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety & Warranty Information
Design

The S21 FE looks a lot like the Galaxy S21 with a contour-cut camera module, however, there are minor changes. The cladding around the camera is plastic, the display is flat, has a thin metal frame and the plastic back seamlessly flows into a camera island.

The back has a soft matte finish to it, and it is made of plastic. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it’s not a smudge magnet either. It is to be noted that you don’t get a protective case out-of-the-box and owing to the slippery back, it is recommended to use a case. Designed for fans of all kinds, the Galaxy S21 FE comes in a range of attractive colors like White, Lavender, Graphite, and Olive.

Moving on to the button placement, the volume rockers, and power button are present to the right edge of the smartphone, USB Type-C port, primary microphone, speaker grille, and Hybrid Dual SIM tray are present to the bottom, secondary microphone at the top, and the left side is left empty.

The antenna bands are noticeable, but it doesn’t take away the aesthetics of the smartphone. On similar lines, the build quality of this is smartphone is top-notch as well. It is well-built and does give a premium in-hand experience, which is a good thing. The S21 FE has IP68 certification, which means it is water and dust resistant, the same as the rest of the S21 series.

Display

The Galaxy S21 FE flaunts a 6.4-inch FULL HD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) Super AMOLED display with support for 120Hz refresh rate and a centered punch-hole for the 32MP front camera. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. Unlike the S20FE, the S21 FE has evenly thin bezels on all sides.

Moving on, you can set the display to a 60Hz refresh rate (Standard) or keep it at 120Hz (High), and there is no support for the adaptive refresh rate. OneUI offers a range of display settings that you can choose from according to your preference.

Talking about the display quality, Samsung’s AMOLED panel is known for its bright, vivid colors and deep blacks, and the Galaxy S21 FE is no exception. It is an amazing panel that can get pretty bright outdoors and offers a great experience overall.

Speaking of multimedia content, there is support for Widevine L1 certification, which means you can watch FULL HD videos on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and the Galaxy S21 FE was able to play back HDR videos on YouTube as well.

Performance

Under the hood, the Galaxy S21 FE is powered by the Octa-Core Samsung Exynos 2100 5nm EUV processor paired with 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB internal storage (UFS 3.0). The graphic duties are handled by the Mali-G77 MP11 GPU.

Coming to real-world performance, the Exynos 2100 5nm processor handles almost any task thrown at it with ease. During my usage that involved constant browsing, juggling between social media applications, watching videos on YouTube, the Galaxy S21 FE handled it brilliantly. Thanks to the faster UFS 3.0 storage, apps were quick to load, and I did not notice any sort of lag whatsoever. Similarly, 8GB RAM ensured smooth multitasking as well.

As for the GPU performance, casual games ran smoothly as expected. Similarly, graphic intensive games like Call of Duty Mobile, Modern Combat 5 eSport FPS ran fine for the most part in high graphic settings. But the rear of the phone did get a little warm. Check out some benchmark scores.

Camera

It seems Samsung has decided to use the same camera from the S20FE, and it’s not a bad move. The S21 FE has three cameras stacked vertically on the back and is housed in a module, similar to the S21.

The triple-camera setup is a combination of a 12MP (primary with f/1.8 aperture) + 8MP (telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture, 3X optical zoom) +12MP (123-degree ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 aperture).

The primary 12MP shooter has a 79-degree field of view, the telephoto lens has a 32-degree field of view, and the ultra-wide-angle lens has a 123-degree field of view.

The camera app is quite similar to other Samsung phones. During daylight conditions, the output from the 12MP primary sensor comes out good with well-balanced colors.

By default, the ‘Scene Optimiser’ is turned on which boosts the colors, but if you are not a fan of the extra bit of saturation, you can turn it off. Similarly, Auto HDR is turned on by default, and it is not too aggressive, which is a good thing.

Coming to the 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens, it has a 123-degree field that offers a wider perspective while capturing photos or videos. The photos come out good in daylight conditions, but the details around the edges are much softer compared to the output from the primary sensor.

Moving on, the 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens offers 3x Optical Zoom, Up to 30x Super-Resolution Zoom. As expected, the details are retained on photos up to 3x and come out good. You’ll start to notice the loss in detail when capturing photos beyond 3X, and images shot at up to 5x are usable, I’d say. Further, the camera app offers quick toggle buttons to switch from ultra-wide-angle lens/primary/telephoto lens (0.5x, 1x, 2x, 4x, 10x, 20x, 30x).

The low-light images have been improved from S20FE. The details are rich, have good color saturation, and have realistic exposure. The Night Mode brightens up the image and the noise levels are kept to a good minimum. As for the selfies, the 32MP camera captures good selfies, and you can see that in the samples below.

Overall, the optics are really good on the Galaxy S21 FE. As for the videos, the Galaxy S20 FE supports up to 4K at 60fps.

The video quality is good, and the stabilization works as expected too, thanks to OIS on both primary and ultra-wide-angle lenses. On top of this, Super Steady (works on up to 1080 at 30fps) can be turned on as well which results in more stable footage, overall.

Moving on, you can use the ultra-wide-angle lens to shoot videos (720p at 30fps, 1080p at 30fps, 4K at 30fps), and use the telephoto lens to shoot videos as well.

Software

The Galaxy S21 FE runs on the new OneUI 4 based on Android 12. OneUI 4 comes with features like Wireless Dex, gestures for third-party launchers, Pro Video mode, and more. There is support for the full version of Samsung Pay and works as expected. Out-of-the-box, a bunch of Microsoft apps, and Samsung apps are pre-installed, and you can uninstall some of them, according to your preference. The company has confirmed 4 generations of Android updates, 5 years of security updates for the phone.

Connectivity

The Galaxy S21 FE supports Dual SIM (nano+nano),5G SA/NSA, 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 5.1, GPS + GLONASS, USB 3.1, Samsung Pay with NFC. There is support for Wi-Fi calling, but there is no support for eSIM on this device. The call quality was excellent, and there were no stability issues as well.

When it comes to the fingerprint scanner, the Galaxy S21 FE is one of the fastest out there. There is support for Face Unlock as well, and it is fast to unlock. Works as expected.

Battery

The Galaxy S21 FE is backed up by a 4500mAh battery with support for 25W fast charging. However, it doesn’t come with a charger in the box. Further, it also supports WPC Qi wireless fast charging and Wireless PowerShare feature. This means you can charge other devices with wireless charging support like Galaxy Watch3, Galaxy Buds Live, etc by placing it on the back of the Galaxy S21 FE.

Coming to the battery life, with my casual usage that involved scrolling through social media feed, browsing, music playback, video playback on YouTube, I was left with around 20% juice at the end of the day. With heavy usage, you might end up draining the battery much earlier. It is to be noted that, the refresh rate was set to 120Hz all the time. So with a 60Hz refresh rate, the battery life could be better.

Conclusion

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fan Edition as a device gets most of the things right just like its predecessor. Unlike S20 FE, the price of the S21FE is a bit on the higher side, making it tough to recommend. Let’s wait for the price cut.

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE comes in White, Lavender, Graphite, and Olive colours and is priced at Rs. 54,999 for the 8GB + 128GB version and the 8GB + 256GB version costs Rs. 58,999.

The phone is available from Amazon.in, Samsung.com, leading online portals, and select retail stores.

Pros

  • Excellent display
  • Versatile cameras
  • Good performance

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Slightly priced on the higher side



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