Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

After a year of speculating about whether or not to like it, Samsung has finally announced the Galaxy S21 FE. Like the 2020 Galaxy S20 FE (the FE stands for Fan Edition), this device features most of the flagship-level specs of the Galaxy S21, including a Snapdragon 888 chipset and 120Hz display, for a lower price: $699 for the 128 GB base model. With the S21’s nearly mid-range price tag and an attractive mid-range option in the Galaxy A52 5G, it’s another addition to an already crowded spot in Samsung’s lineup.

The Galaxy S21 FE offers a 6.4-inch screen, slightly larger than the S21’s 6.2-inch panel. Other than that size difference, the S21 FE has a lot in common with the S21. The screen is a 1080p OLED panel at 120Hz like that of the S21. Even the design language is consistent, with the camera bump merging into the phone’s side rails.

The camera bump is matte plastic rather than metal like the S21’s.
Photo by Allison Johnson / Best Fitness Bands

The FE packs a flagship-worthy 5nm chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 in the US, Samsung’s own Exynos elsewhere) and a 12-megapixel f/1.8 main camera with optical stabilization, the same as the S21. It even does better in terms of battery capacity, with a 4,500mAh cell compared to the S21’s 4,000mAh (although the slightly larger screen probably evens out battery performance). Fast 25W wired charging, 15W wireless charging, an IP68 weather resistance rating and both flavors of 5G (sub6GHz and fast mmWave) are all inherited from the S21.

So what do you get when you pay more for the S21? More RAM – 8 GB in the base configuration versus 6 GB of the S21 FE – and a higher-resolution telephoto camera. Other than the previously noted differences in screen and battery size, that’s about it. The Galaxy S21 FE retails for $699 with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage or $769 for 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. It comes with Samsung’s Android 12-based One UI 4.0 installed.

I’ve had the S21 FE in my hands for a few days and it feels to me like a device riding the ever-tangled line between a flagship and a midrange phone. The back is composite plastic with a matte finish, which feels midrange to me, but the display is big and bright with the buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate – flagship territory for sure. Overall performance feels flagship-worthy too, with the exception of a slight lag in the camera’s portrait mode live preview. Oh, and there’s no charger in the box, which is also a flagship now.

The S21 FE comes with Android 12.
Photo by Allison Johnson / Best Fitness Bands

Samsung introduced the S20 FE last year as a cheaper, full-featured alternative to the S20. Also priced at $699, there was a wider gap between it and the $999 base model S20, which made it a great deal. Things are a little different this time around, with the S21 dropping in price to $799. There’s also the Galaxy A52 5G, one of Samsung’s more expensive budget phones at $499. And don’t forget that Samsung has the entry fee for its foldables. lowered – with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 for $999, it’s part of the conversation too.

The S21 FE has a slightly curved metal rail.
Photo by Allison Johnson / Best Fitness Bands

It’s more than a little confusing, but it’s not a new strategy for Samsung. As Dieter noted in his overview of the S20 range, Samsung is taking this “a phone at any price” approach because it can. It’s also really good at mixing and matching features for different price points, and a solid support policy that supports most devices makes its budget and midrange phones hard to beat. With the S21 FE, Samsung is taking another step in a market that likes to cut it thinner and thinner.

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