Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review

GSMArena Team, 16 January 2022.

Design, build quality, handling

Quite expectedly, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G looks just like the Galaxy S21 bunch but with a twist. The phone has a flat front, a thin metal frame, and a slightly curved back that flows into the raised camera block. And that's where it differs!

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g reviewGalaxy S21 next to the Galaxy S21 FE

See, while the metal frame of the Galaxy S21 flowed into the jutting-out camera slab, Samsung did the opposite here - the plastic back seamlessly flows into a camera island. And while it may seem like the maker chose the cheaper option, we think this looks more organic, at least from an aesthetic perspective.

The build is identical to the Galaxy S21 as well - there is a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus at the front, the frame is brushed aluminum, and the back is a piece of grippy plastic with a matte finish. The S21 FE is water and dust resistant with the same IP68 rating as the rest of the S21 series.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g reviewGalaxy S21 next to the Galaxy S21 FE

And while we are still looking at the two most compact S21 members, let's compare them. The Galaxy S21 packs a 6.2-inch display, while the S21 FE utilizes a slightly larger 6.4-inch panel. The FE version is obviously larger - it's 4mm taller, 3mm wider and 8 grams heavier than the original S21 model. We consider both phones pocket-friendly by today's standards. Sure, not as compact as an iPhone mini, but still among the smallest premium Androids around - especially if you count the three separate cameras.

We do like this natural flowing design of the Galaxy S21 lineup and the S21 FE in particular. It is good-looking, and it does prove firmer grip than your average dual-glass smartphone.

Now, let's take a closer look at the Galaxy S21 FE 5G.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

As we've established, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G employs a bit smaller 6.4-inch display than the previous S20 Fan Edition. It has the usual circular perforation for the 32MP selfie camera around the top, just below the earpiece. The screen panel has been improved since the S20 FE with native HDR10+ support at launch.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

There is no grille above the screen, just a thin outlet for the sound. There is a proper speaker placed underneath the display, right next to the selfie camera. It also acts as an earpiece. The Galaxy S21 FE has stereo speakers - this is one of them, while the other one is at the bottom, next to the USB port.

Another thing that's invisible to the naked eye is the under-display fingerprint scanner. It's a Goodix optical sensor, unlike Galaxy S21's ultrasonic eye (by Qualcomm). It is reasonably fast, accurate and reliable, and, overall, we are happy with the experience.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

And before we flip over to the back, we should acknowledge the evenly thin screen bezels.

The back is one nicely smooth piece of plastic, and Samsung calls its design a Contour Cut one. It is mostly flat with slightly curved edges, then it rises a bit to envelop the three cameras. The result is indeed one simple and beautiful panel with no abrupt endings or transitions.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

We've already seen these three rear cameras - they are the same as on the Galaxy S20 FE. There is a 12MP primary shooter, a 12MP ultrawide one, and an 8MP 3x telephoto.

While the rear panel is made of plastic, it does not feel cheap or hollow. Interestingly, it's not a smudge magnet either, just on the contrary. Even on our Graphite version here, fingerprints are barely visible, if at all.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g reviewAll Galaxy S21 FE color options

The aluminum frame is slightly curved and brushed, matching the touch and feeling of the back. It provides good enough grip and looks stylish, too.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

There is nothing but a secondary mic on its top. The bottom has the primary mic, the dual-SIM tray, the USB-C port, and the second speaker.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

The left side is completely bare, while the right one houses the volume and the power/lock keys.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

Handling the Galaxy S21 FE 5G was a pleasure during our week with the phone. It is a grippy device, which is rare these days, and then it's not a large handset - something that's even rarer.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

And we will remember it exactly for those things - a no-nonsense clean design with pocket-friendly size and good grip.

Reader comments

  • Barbie Q
  • 12 Apr 2024
  • a0X

Hi can you please tell me where did you buy this phone for that price ? Very much interested can you chose any color ? Thank you Waiting for response

  • ThunderReyli
  • 17 Mar 2024
  • Pcx

I bought a s21 fe for 240$ and it's perfect, i can play every single game with minimal fps drops, the camera and display are good tho

  • Macharul
  • 17 Mar 2024
  • 04A

True... Still one of the best phones in it's price range