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Samsung S21 FE – A fantastic budget flagship

This year’s Fan Edition Samsung smartphone trims very few features from the original flagship, while coming in at a better price. BRYAN TURNER gave it a Gadget Score of 7.8/10.

Right before the launch of the Galaxy S22, Samsung released the Galaxy S21 Fan Edition. We took this very capable, more-affordable flagship smartphone for a spin while many were still scratching their heads

The S21 FE follows the same design language as the mainline S21 smartphones, but replaces the metal camera bump with a unibody plastic bump. What’s constant between the devices is: the powerful Snapdragon 888 5G processor; the Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with Gorilla Glass Victus protection; and triple camera set with 3X optical zoom.

Although the Snapdragon 888 5G chip is just over a year old, it is still capable and will still be in two to three years time. The available RAM options depend on the storage size one chooses: the 128GB base model comes with 6GB of memory, while the 256GB variant packs 8GB. 

The big upshot of this device is the 5G connectivity, which enabled blazing-fast Deezer Hi-Fi and Apple Music Hi-Res Lossless downloads. This is also a big selling point for those who watch a lot of live streaming video, since the latency of 5G is much lower than that of 4G. Now for unlimited mobile 5G to take off with the network providers…

The screen is a vibrant 120Hz 6.4-inch AMOLED panel with fantastic colour reproduction. Gorilla Glass Victus laminates the screen for more protection against drops, cracks, and loose keys in one’s pocket. An optical fingerprint sensor underneath the screen is a slight downgrade from the S21’s ultrasonic version, but the FE has faster face unlock to fill the gap.

While the main lens and sensor remain the same as the S21, the camera set deviates slightly with the lower resolution telephoto sensor (which only does 3X optical zoom instead of the S21’s assisted 30X digital zoom). The FE’s 123˚ ultrawide lens is slightly wider than that of the S21’s 120˚. Overall, the camera set is comparable with that of the S21.

The S21 FE records videos in 4K at 60 frames per second, which makes it one of the more capable devices for recording high-resolution video. Users can also enable some seriously useful features like video stabilisation or HDR 10+, if one is willing to forgo 4K for 1080p.

The battery performance is above average: it features a 4500mAh cell, which supports 25W fast charging, reverse wireless charging, and USB Power Delivery 3.0. The only catch? Buy your own charger.

Our test unit came pre-installed with Android 12 and One UI 4 out of the box. The combination of latest generation operating system and skin provides a more private and polished experience. It is also loaded with the flagship ecosystem of Samsung software: DeX, Samsung Pay, and Link to Windows. These give users the option to leave their wallets and computers behind when going out.

Overall, the Samsung S21 FE is a capable smartphone that still has plenty of longevity for potential buyers, even though the S22 was just released.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

7.8 out of 10
R14999

Samsung took what users love most and built a fan-inspired phone so one can experience S21 features at a better price. The fast S21 chipset? Check. The S21 pro-grade camera? Check.

Body/Chassis
7/10
Display
9/10
Camera set
8/10
Performance
9/10
Battery
7/10
Price
7/10

Pros

Excellent performance

Vibrant screen

Advanced camera tech

Cons

No charger in the box

No SD card expansion

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