Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review

GSMArena Team, 16 January 2022.

Display

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display - an update over the S20 FE's 6.5" Super AMOLED. It still has the usual 1,080 x 2,400 px resolution (411ppi), supports a 120Hz refresh rate and Always-on features. The touch sampling rate when using Game Mode is 240Hz, otherwise, it should be 120Hz.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

The Galaxy S21 FE has HDR10+ support at launch. This, with the combination of the Widevine L1 DRM support, allows you to stream Full HD HDR10 content from all popular services (we tried).

You can opt between two Motion Smoothness modes (a.k.a. refresh rates) - High (120Hz) and Standard (60Hz). Unfortunately, the 120Hz mode is not a dynamic one - 120Hz is always forced no matter the content on the screen - video, streaming, browsing, gaming. This came as a surprise as we expected a dynamic refresh rate like on the rest of the Galaxy S21 devices. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

It seems Samsung has updated the One UI 4 brightness slider - it can now reach the maximum brightness once you hit OK on the warning for possible overheating. It is on par with the maximum brightness when using the Adaptive (auto) mode - 792 nits - not far away from S21's 856 nits.

Let's explain this better. Once we reached the end of the slider (when manually adjusting), we captured 385 nits at point white. Then we readjusted it a bit and hit the end again, a warning appeared, and then the screen lit up as high as 792 nits. And it's not a bug; it works every single time.

The minimum brightness we measured at point white was 1.8nits - an outstanding result.

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G 0 792
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G 0 416
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Max Auto) 0 856
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 0 404
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Max Auto) 0 823
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G 0 459
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Max Auto) 0 883
Apple iPhone 13 0 802
Apple iPhone 13 Pro 0 856
Xiaomi Mi 11 0 498
Xiaomi Mi 11 (Max Auto) 0 926
Xiaomi Mi 11T Pro 0 516
Xiaomi Mi 11T Pro (Max Auto) 0 837
Asus Zenfone 8 0 440
Asus Zenfone 8 (Max Auto) 0 800
OnePlus 9 Pro 0 525
OnePlus 9 Pro (Max Auto) 0.038 871 22921:1
Realme GT 5G 0 443
Realme GT 5G (Max Auto) 0 650

The screen is tuned to comply with the DCI-P3 (Vivid mode) and sRGB (Natural mode) color spaces. The accuracy is great for both, with an average deltaE of 2.5.

Battery life

The Galaxy S21 FE has the same battery as the S20 FE - a 4,500 mAh cell. It supports up to 25W fast charging, but since there is no charger in the box, you will need to shop for one.

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G scored a good endurance rating of 92 hours on our battery life test. That's on par with the Galaxy S21 5G but about 20 hours less than the S20 FE 5G score.

The new FE does marvelously when handling calls and playing videos, while its web time stays above the average. The standby performance is average though, and that's what is really hurting the performance of the new Fan Edition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

We usually carry out our video test at 60Hz, as most phones, no matter the chosen refresh rate, stream/play videos at 60Hz. It's not the case on the Galaxy S21 FE, though. If you have opted for 120Hz, videos are always shown at a 120Hz refresh rate. We carried our video test again at 120Hz, and it dropped by 2 and a half hours. This brought the final endurance rating down to 88 hours.

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating denotes how long the battery charge will last you if you use the device for an hour of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. More details can be found here.

Video test carried out in 60Hz refresh rate mode. Web browsing test done at the display's highest refresh rate whenever possible. Refer to the respective reviews for specifics. To adjust the endurance rating formula to match your own usage patterns check out our all-time battery test results chart where you can also find all phones we've tested.

Charging speed

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G supports up to 25W fast charging, but it ships without a power adapter. We have a 25W Samsung PD/PPS charger in our office, and we carried out our charging test with that one.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review

So, when using the 25W Samsung charger, the battery went from 0% to 51% in 30 minutes. That's reasonably fast, even if not OnePlus/Oppo fast.

30min charging test (from 0%)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    99%
  • Realme GT 5G (65W)
    87%
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    83%
  • Asus Zenfone 8
    60%
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (25W)
    57%
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (25W PD)
    55%
  • Apple iPhone 13
    54%
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    51%
  • Galaxy S20 FE (15W bundled)
    37%

A full charge requires 1 hour and 15 minutes, another adequate time.

Time to full charge (from 0%)

Lower is better

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    0:32h
  • Realme GT 5G (65W)
    0:39h
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    0:50h
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (25W)
    1:10h
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (25W PD)
    1:13h
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    1:15h
  • Asus Zenfone 8
    1:28h
  • Galaxy S20 FE (15W bundled)
    1:35h
  • Apple iPhone 13
    1:46h

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G supports up to 15W wireless charging with compatible Qi pads. It can also wirelessly charge other devices such as earbuds, watches, and even phones - you just need to activate this from the battery settings and then put the power-hungry gadget on its back.

Speakers

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G has two full-fledged speakers, like all Galaxy S21 phones. The first one is behind the screen, near the selfie camera, and its outlet is front-facing. The other speaker is at the bottom.

The two speakers are balanced very well if you are listening to music in landscape or portrait orientation. When compared separately, the bottom piece is a bit louder and slightly more bassy.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

This dual-speaker setup scored a Good mark on our speaker test, on par with the Galaxy S21 5G and the Galaxy S20 FE 5G.

The audio quality deserves another good mark, too. The vocals are pleasing, and we appreciate the rich high notes. The bass is underwhelming, though, while the mid-tones are alright, but not as well presented as on the Galaxy S21.

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone sample recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal "0db" flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

Reader comments

If you got some extra benjamin to splash, why not S21FE? A53 is decent and might be a good bargain, but you get previous flagship chipset on S21FE and the main 12MP alongside the telephoto 8MP sensor was really good. If you prefer flagship performanc...

If you concern more on stability and battery endurance, I suggest you to get the SD version instead. I'm currently using Exynos version and to be honest, the CPU performance is good enough for day to day task but I take Adreno still outperform t...

  • IronMan

Is it Exynos version?