Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G hands-on review

Hristo Zlatanov, 07 January 2022.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE hands-on

Long story short - the Galaxy S21 FE has copied the Galaxy S21 design and build and we mean that in a good way. The new Fan Edition does look prettier and has more style to it, plus it's thinner and lighter.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on reviewGalaxy S21 next to the Galaxy S21 FE

It's not that the Galaxy S20 FE was a bad-looking phone, but arguably, the Galaxy S21 introduced a polarizing shape for the back camera island. They are bringing a new iteration of it that is no longer part of the frame, but rather, it's not part of the back with a more gradual transition. Everything is finished with the same matte effect and it feels nice to the touch.

The back cover is all plastic, but that's the case with the original S21 and S21+ as well.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

On the positive side, the Galaxy S21 FE is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance, just like the rest of the Galaxy S21 and S20 phones. A notable improvement over the Galaxy S20 FE is the screen glass - it's now the latest Gorilla Glass Victus by Corning, which is probably the toughest glass available on an Android phone.

The frame is made of brushed aluminum, while the back panel is all plastic with a fingerprint-resistant top layer. This, with the brushed frame, make for some really good handling experience, providing a solid grip.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

The new Galaxy S21 FE has a slightly smaller display than the S20 FE - a 6.4-inch (vs. 6.5") screen with a small perforation for the selfie camera. The panel has been upgraded - it's of the latest Dynamic AMOLED 2X kind with 1080p resolution, HDR10+ support and 120Hz refresh rate. The S20 FE's Super AMOLED wasn't HDR10-certified, and its peak brightness was lower.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

The 32MP selfie camera within the punch-hole is the same as on the S20 FE with fixed focus and 4K video capturing. The earpiece is also of interest here, as it doubles as a stereo speaker just like on many other high-end Galaxies.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

The S21 FE relies on an under-display fingerprint scanner with an optical sensor. It appears to be as fast and reliable as on other top-of-the-line Galaxy smartphones. And another invisible yet important feature - it's got a real proximity sensor, which should be a welcome upgrade over the controversial virtual proximity method on the Galaxy S20 FE.

Looking at the back of the Galaxy S21 FE, we can clearly see the identical design with the rest of the Galaxy S21 smartphones. The rear panel is one large piece of plastic with a smooth transition between the even part and the jutting-out camera block. The whole thing is elegant and simple and has become a fan-favorite design feature.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

The three snappers on the back are the same as on the Galaxy S20 FE. The top one is a 12MP snapper with an ultra wide-angle lens and fixed focus. Then come the 12MP primary with a wide-angle OIS lens. And last is the 8MP shooter with telephoto OIS lens for 3x optical zoom. Even if the hardware is seemingly the same as the S20 FE, Samsung promises better processing and new imaging skills like object removal.

The Galaxy S21 FE will be available in four fresh colors, and we find them all quite appealing. The Lavender has been around for some time across the recent Galaxy A offers, while the White and Graphite are already familiar and pretty traditional. There is a new option called Olive Green.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

All four options have matte frames and back and are not as prone to fingerprints as their glossy counterparts.

The Galaxy S21 FE is 4mm shorter, 0.5mm thinner, and 13 grams lighter than the Galaxy S20 FE, and someone who has handled both can really feel the difference. The 0.1" screen reduction, among other things, is responsible for the more compact size. But these changes made the Galaxy S21 FE feel somewhat more compact and pocket friendlier than its predecessor. And that's good!

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G Hands-on review

Thanks to the new size, the improved screen and performance, and hopefully - the better camera experience - we think the Galaxy S21 FE has every chance to become a best-seller prior to and even post the Galaxy S22 series launch. It seems like a thoughtful offer, and we can't wait to put it through its paces for our review.

Reader comments

  • Kakabalika
  • 26 Dec 2023
  • Nq5

The review unit seems to have a network issue as is indicated by no network bars, my s21 5g has had the same problem for months now, how did you work your way around it?

  • Anonymous
  • 24 Jan 2022
  • j5$

Yikes. This just thuds.

yeah I have tested like 5 different chargers and cables, and seems like the problem has gotten even worse in one UI4, it says remove charger immediately because of moisture which is a total joke