Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has flagship credentials, but time may not be on its side
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G comes after quite a bit of speculation surrounding it through much of last year. Chip shortage was one reason attributed to its rumoured shelving. Not so. The latest addition to the Galaxy S21 line-up now becomes the entry point in terms of price. Yet, you may be spot on if you ask — how is this really that different from the Samsung Galaxy S21? The pricing may hold some answers. The timing of this launch, not as much.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is priced at ₹49,999 (8GB+128GB) and ₹53,999 (8GB+256GB). The Samsung Galaxy S21 starts at ₹64,999. That is a fair enough gap between the two phones, and refreshes the series till the successors come along. In a way, it is pitted against the OnePlus 9, which is priced ₹49,999 upwards.
The ingredients remain the same as its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, which also did its bit to infuse some mid-cycle enthusiasm. All talk of the price is incomplete without mentioning that on the specs sheet, this isn’t really making many compromises. That can only be a good thing.
Given the design of the phone, one can tell from a distance that it’s a Samsung Galaxy. A few grams heavier than the Galaxy S21, but similar thickness. The troika of Gorilla Glass Victus at the front, the plastic back and the aluminium frame has been retained. The matte finish means this isn’t a scratch magnet, though fingerprint smudges are still a thing. It is difficult to put our finger on it, but there is something that makes the fingers perceive the finish and the material on the back as a notch lower than the Galaxy S21.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a 6.4-inch display, slightly larger than the Galaxy S21 (that has a 6.2-inch screen), while the resolution and the Dynamic AMOLED 2X underliers remain the same. Right down to the 120Hz refresh rate, but then again, omitting that would have been glaring. The display ticks off all that you’d expect from any phone you may consider buying in early 2022, and to add as a bonus, this is one of the more compact phones to still keep an eye on at a time when sizes are getting larger.
The Indian version (as does the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G in many other countries) gets the Exynos 2100 processor. In the US, this phone is sold with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip. Again, all flagship-grade specs, without compromise. The difference, out of the box is, this gets Android 12 with Samsung’s usual wrapper of One UI. Things continue to get tweaked and tuned on that front, and this Android 12 update doesn’t have any first outing bugs that will hamper your experience.
It’s an observation that we must point out – the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G runs a lot cooler than its elder siblings, with the same set of multi-tasking and stressing environments. There could be two things at work here. One, better software optimisation at play, on the Android and One UI fronts.
Secondly, the phone has been tuned to scale back processing power earlier than its predecessors. The result is, this isn’t a phone you’d notice become lukewarm and then hot when you’re gaming or stressing it out with multi-tasking. That’s what most users would appreciate on a daily basis.
The other positive emerging from this is the battery life doesn’t see inconsistent drain, exacerbated by heating and higher temperatures internally from time to time. It’ll get through a day of use quite easily with a lot of juice still remaining in the tank when you plug this in for charging before saying hello to your pillow. The one thing which the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G hasn’t forgotten to learn from the flagship Android phones – there is no charger in the box.
There are some changes on the camera front as well. It is still a triple camera set-up at the back, but the sensors and megapixels vary a bit. The Galaxy S21 has a 12-megapixel + 64-megapixel + 12-megapixel troika at work. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G swaps out the 64-megapixel telephoto and replaces it with an 8-megapixel sensor. Lots of similarities, including the camera app and the modes available – though this is limited to 4K video recording instead of 8K videos.
The photos that you’ll get are the sort that prove the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is able to stand up to phones that may have higher megapixel-count cameras. There’s good detailing, though we did notice sometimes that manual focus was the best bet in case you want to get some finer details come through without fail. Colours are typically what you’d expect from a Samsung phone camera – a bit more vivid, and that may look good in social media posts.
Yet, there are unexpected struggles if you are shooting against the light, or in inconsistent ambient lighting, as some noise (consider this as graining) does show up in the lower exposed areas of a photo.
We have touched upon the timing of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G’s arrival. The thing is, this is a phone that should have been launched about six months earlier than it eventually has. That places it in a time zone where the next big update, the Galaxy S22 series, is expected as early as next month.
Yes, those phones will be much more expensive than the Galaxy S21 FE, but their arrival will also mean further price changes to the Galaxy S21 series (if you don’t mind buying last year’s phone at a discount). Something this phone may miss out on, because it will still be new. The result – the difference with the Galaxy S21 may reduce significantly. While your choices just widen quite a bit.
Really, there isn’t much to nit-pick with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G. The performance is flagship-level. So is the display. And the battery life (as well as capacity – that’s 4500mAh). Except for not having a charger in the box, and cameras that require a bit more attention with some shots. This may be pitched as a lower-cost phone, but it doesn’t feel like it. Olive and Lavender may just be the colours to keep an eye on.