Samsung just announced the Galaxy S21 FE, after months and months of rumors. We’ve had it in our hands for a few days now, not long enough to do a full review yet, but long enough to know how good or bad it is going to be. And the short is, this is what the Galaxy S21 should have been.
Samsung did refine the design a bit here, and I really like the matte black back on the Galaxy S21 FE. It makes it a lot easier to hold onto, and it doesn’t pick up fingerprints as easily as other glass phones. The Galaxy S21 FE does also come in some other fun colors, but Samsung didn’t send the Olive or Violet out to us, unfortunately.
As expected, the Galaxy S21 FE launches with Android 12 and One UI 4 on-board. This is my first experience with Android 12 on a Samsung smartphone, and I have to say they did a pretty good job with adding in Material You. But the same complaints that we had with the software on Pixel phones, exist here on the Galaxy S21 FE. For example, the themed icons only work for specific apps, and surprisingly, not all Google apps. So you’ll have some on your home screen that are themed and others that are not, and it just does not look good at all.
A decently sized smartphone
Not everyone wants a huge smartphone, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but the Galaxy S21 FE is not small by any means. It’s right in the middle of the Galaxy S21 and S21+. It comes in at 6.4-inches and is a FHD+ 120Hz display. It’s not an LPTO display, so it is either 120Hz or 60Hz, that will likely take a hit on the battery life. Speaking of the battery, it’s around 4500mAh. That’s pretty large, so it should still get through a full day, though we are unsure right now.
It also features a triple-camera setup on the back, with a 12-megapixel main and ultrawide sensor and then a 8-megapixel telephoto at 3x optical zoom.
Hardware specs are pretty top-notch for a smartphone launching in early 2022, though there’s no Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 included. That will likely debut on the Galaxy S22 which is set to launch next month. The Snapdragon 888 is no slouch though, and is still quite capable here. During the short time that we’ve spent with the Galaxy S21 FE, it hasn’t disappointed one bit.
What is disappointing though, is that Samsung is selling this in 6GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB variants. While the Galaxy S21 series all came with at least 8GB of RAM. And given that the Galaxy S21 FE is not much cheaper, that begs the real question. Why would you buy this over a Galaxy S21 series device?
The real question is, why would someone buy this over the Galaxy S21?
The Galaxy S21 series debuted at CES 2021 last year. So it is getting a bit long in the tooth, and normally by now they would be super cheap and discounted. However, that is not the case this year, due to the chip shortage. The Galaxy S21 series have really only been discounted by about $100. In fact, right now, you can only find “renewed” models of the non-Ultra Galaxy S21 on Amazon.
So while in most years, the Galaxy S21 FE might not be a great buy, this year it might just be. Especially, if you are looking for a cheaper flagship smartphone in 2022. As the Galaxy S22 is set to come out next month, but it’ll likely be priced higher than the Galaxy S21 was last year.