Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review

GSMArena Team, 16 January 2022.

Android 12 with One UI 4

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is the first Galaxy we meet running on the Android 12 with One UI 4 out of the box. You can barely see anything of Android as One UI completely overhauls its interface.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

Samsung has brought Android 12's Color Palettes to One UI 4 - these change the accent colors of the entire UI - icons, menus, buttons and even the backgrounds. Like Windows and its Accent colors.

There are also new widgets with rich customization options and new emojis and GIFs available on the keyboard. Improved privacy is also part of OneUI 4 with a new privacy dashboard with various controls and new ways for monitoring permissions.

The lock screen looks the same as before with two monochrome shortcuts - dialer and camera.

The under-display fingerprint reader will likely be the primary method of unlocking for most, but you can still use face unlock either instead or alongside it. It can be more convenient in certain situations, but it generally is less secure since it's just using the selfie camera, meaning tricking it isn't too hard.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

Always-on display is available - it's the simplified version from One UI 3. You can choose between a few clock styles or opt for an Image Clock. Music info is also supported. The feature can be always-off, always-on, scheduled, shown only when new notifications are available, or you can opt for tap to show for 10s.

Lockscreen options - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Lockscreen options - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Lockscreen options - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Lockscreen options - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Lockscreen options - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
Lockscreen options

The OneUI 4 looks even cleaner than v.3.x, but its logic remains the same - there are homescreen, widgets, notification center, task switcher and an app drawer.

OneUI 4 - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review OneUI 4 - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review OneUI 4 - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review OneUI 4 - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review OneUI 4 - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review OneUI 4 - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
OneUI 4

One of the new One UI 4 features is Color Palettes. This is the implementation of the vanilla Android 12's Wallpaper colors. There are usually four Color Palette suggestions in addition to the default One UI Blue/Black one. Those are picked automatically by the software, depending on your current wallpaper. The color you choose will become the main one in the newly created theme (think Windows' "accent color").

These accent colors are applied on the dialer, the quick toggles, among other tiny bits of the UI. You can choose to apply them on the app icons as well.

Color palettes - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Color palettes - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Color palettes - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Color palettes - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Color palettes - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Color palettes - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
Color palettes

The dialer allows you to pick between two layouts for the in-call screen. You can also set up a background image or video for that screen, though it's going to be all the same for all of your calls - you can't have a different one on a per-person basis.

Dialer - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Dialer - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Dialer - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Dialer - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Dialer - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
Dialer

The Settings menu contains a new Privacy Dashboard. Here you can easily see which apps are using some of the most important (for privacy) permissions. You can control the camera and control access across apps, opt for clipboard access alerts (useful if you copy passwords, social security numbers, IBANs, among others), and there is, of course, a full-blown permission manager of you like to dig deeper.

Privacy Dashboard - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Privacy Dashboard - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Privacy Dashboard - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Privacy Dashboard - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Privacy Dashboard - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
Privacy Dashboard

You get a whole bunch of options for using your Galaxy with other devices to enable various use cases. DeX is the proprietary feature that lets you use the phone as the 'computer' and add a monitor and a keyboard for added productivity - it works wirelessly or over HDMI.

Alternatively, the Link to Windows feature provides you with an interface to your phone from your computer so you can exchange images, manage notifications on your PC or even make calls from it.

Another option along those lines but with more limited potential is Continue apps on other devices. This requires you to be logged in to your Samsung account on both devices, hook them up to the same Wi-Fi network with Bluetooth enabled and use Samsung Internet browser or Samsung Notes. You'll then be able to copy and paste text and images across and open the same tabs in the browser.

DeX - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Continue apps on other devices - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Link to Windows - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Link to Windows - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Link to Windows - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
DeX • Continue apps on other devices • Link to Windows

Other staples of proprietary Samsung software include the Edge panels - the panes that show up when you swipe in from the side and provide tools and shortcuts to apps and contacts. Game launcher, the hub for all your games, which also provides options for limiting distraction when gaming is here to stay as well.

Otherwise, the software package is similar to other Samsung phones, with an in-house Gallery app, the Game Launcher app, and a proprietary file manager. Samsung's Internet web browser is also available on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Gallery - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Game Launcher - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review File manager - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Internet - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Edge panel - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
Gallery • Game Launcher • File manager • Internet • Edge panel

The Gallery is where you'd find the new Object Eraser feature. Once you enter photo edit mode, you can opt for object eraser from More options. This is a fancier way of saying smart delete - you either paint over an object or tap on it for automatic selection. And then you hope for the best - if the object's surroundings aren't too complex, you will get a good outcome, otherwise - it's a mixed-bag.

Object Eraser - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Object Eraser - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Object Eraser - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Object Eraser - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Object Eraser - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review Object Eraser - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
Object Eraser

Performance and benchmarks

The international/global variant of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G employs the popular Snapdragon 888 5G chipset by Qualcomm, while the limited/local model found so far in Australia only, runs on the Exynos 2100 SoC by Samsung.

We have the SD888 model for review, and that's what the performance inspection is based on, obviously. We have already reviewed the original Galaxy S21 5G with Exynos 2100, so you can refer to its test results for comparison here.

So, the Snapdragon 888 may not be Qualcomm's current best as it was recently dethroned by the new Snapdragon 8 Gen1 chip. Still, it's one of the best on the market and will surely make everyone happy.

For the unfamiliar, this chip is based on a 5nm manufacturing process. It contains an octa-core processor with a familiar core configuration 1+3+4 - 1x2.84 GHz Kryo 680 Prime (Cortex-X1 derivative) & 3x2.42 GHz Kryo 680 Gold (Cortex-A78 derivative) & 4x1.8 GHz Kryo 680 Silver (Cortex-A55 derivative). The GPU is Adreno 660.

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G is available in three versions, all with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage - 6GB/128GB, 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB. There is no microSD expansion here, the S20 FE was probably the last one with this feature.

And now, it's benchmark time!

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review

The Snapdragon 888 5G CPU is still one of the best on the market, even if, for some reason, it scores a bit lower than the rest of the SD888-featuring peers.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    3636
  • Asus Zenfone 8
    3604
  • Realme GT 5G
    3555
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    3518
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    3489
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    3296
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    3244
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
    3238
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    3049
  • Xiaomi 11T
    2834
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    2792
  • Galaxy S20 (60Hz, 1440p)
    2750

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    1139
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    1126
  • Asus Zenfone 8
    1118
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    1109
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    1107
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    1096
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    1085
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
    1032
  • Galaxy S20 (60Hz, 1440p)
    931
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    906
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    814
  • Xiaomi 11T
    742

Same goes for the GPU - it's an outstanding performer under the 120Hz 1080p screen of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Asus Zenfone 8
    105
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    98
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
    95
  • Galaxy S20 (120Hz, 1080p)
    79
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    77
  • Xiaomi 11T
    72
  • Realme GT 5G
    60
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    58
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    58
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    57
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    57
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    57
  • Galaxy S20 (60Hz, 1440p)
    45

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Asus Zenfone 8
    61
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    56
  • Realme GT 5G
    55
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
    54
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    45
  • Galaxy S20 (120Hz, 1080p)
    44
  • Xiaomi 11T
    40
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    38
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    36
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    33
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    33
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    33
  • Galaxy S20 (60Hz, 1440p)
    26

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    5872
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    5701
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    5691
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    5673
  • Asus Zenfone 8
    5666
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    5547
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    5432
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
    5412
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    4224
  • Xiaomi 11T
    4172

AnTuTu 9 also puts the Galaxy S21 FE among the top-scoring phones right now.

AnTuTu 9

Higher is better

  • Realme GT 5G
    810433
  • Asus Zenfone 8
    799738
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
    719696
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
    650829
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    598022
  • Xiaomi 11T
    590837

We already know the Snapdragon 888 is not that easy to cool and phones with passive cooling usually throttle at some point to avoid overheating. The Galaxy S21 FE is one of those phones. It scored 68% CPU stability and 63% GPU stability on the respective CPU and GPU stress tests. That is in line with most of the SD888 phones.

The phone doesn't get incredibly hot, so there is nothing to worry about. And this throttling appeared only when we ran stress tests and prolonged benchmarking. We saw no such thing in games, or at least it was not enough for us to notice it.

CPU stress test - Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5g review
CPU stress test

The Galaxy S21 FE is adequately equipped to be a flagship even by 2022 standards. Sure, there is a new chip on the horizon, but for a Fan Edition that's based on the Galaxy S21 series, the S21 FE has exactly what it is supposed to - the favorite hardware among the S21 trio - the SD888. And it can handle everything for the next couple of years, hassle-free, with zero stutters.

Reader comments

  • ModsZone
  • 09 Dec 2022
  • k40

I just got this phone and been using it for 10 days now. This phone is good for gaming as it doesn't lag as i have set all the highest graphics of every high-end game I've played and it will overheat for 1-2hrs of usage and it consumes at l...

  • Anonymous
  • 08 Dec 2022
  • DEP

Read again carefully, mate.

  • Anonymous
  • 07 Dec 2022
  • uI7

Is that snapdragon edition?