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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Quick Review: No Frills

by John Nieves  January 4, 2022

Initial Review Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE offers much of the same for anyone looking for an affordable flagship from the Korean company in the Philippines.

Pros

  • Different, vibrant colorways to choose from
  • Should be cheaper than the regular S21
  • Excellent screen

Cons

  • Uses an Exynos processor VS a Snapdragon one for the PH release
  • No (obvious) dynamic refresh rate

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Philippines Specs

  • Exynos 2100 processor
  • 8GBGB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 128GB UFS 3.1 storage
  • 6.41-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED display, 120hz refresh rate, 240hz touch response rate
  • 12-megapixel f/1.8 main camera with OIS and Dual Pixel AF, 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera, 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto camera with OIS and 3x optical zoom
  • 32-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera
  • 4G, LTE, 5G
  • WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS
  • In-display fingerprint scanner, IP68 Rating, stereo speakers
  • 4500mAh battery
  • 25w wired charging, 15w wireless charging
  • Android 11, One UI 3.1

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE is finally heading to the Philippines, months after its expected August release. As expected the phone brings Samsung’s special flagship sauce to a more palatable price point, though Samsung has obviously cut a few features to make that possible.

Design

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE comes in a myriad of colorways, including black, silver, lavender, and olive, the former being our review unit. And just like the original FE, the S21 FE is still clad in that soft, matte plastic chassis that makes it feel nice to the touch.

While the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE doesn’t have the same pomp in its design as its more expensive brother, it’s still a nice phone to hold in the hands. The plastic back doesn’t feel or look cheap – in fact, I prefer its soft-touch finish over the regular Galaxy S21.

The frame of the phone is still metal (aluminum actually) and it still has IP68 protection like its more expensive brothers. The power and volume buttons are on the right side of the phone, while the USB Type-C port and single speaker grille are located on the bottom.

Display

Samsung makes phones with great displays, and the S21 FE is no exception. The display is a tad smaller than the S20 FE, coming in at just 6.4-inches diagonal, though the resolution is the same: 2,340 x 1,080. The phone has a 120Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch sample rate, and you can switch between 60Hz and 120Hz depending on your preference. A halo cut out on the top of the display houses the 32-megapixel selfie camera.

As for the actual screen quality, it’s typical Samsung, meaning the display looks very, very good. We haven’t come across a Super AMOLED display from Samsung that we didn’t like, and the one in the Galaxy S21 FE is no exception. The colors look great, black levels are spot on – all the hallmarks of a great Samsung flagship.

The phone has an in-display fingerprint scanner that’s responsive enough, though it’s not quite as quick as the one on the regular S21. I wouldn’t have minded if Samsung used a side-mounted fingerprint scanner either since I’m so used to flagships using that unlock method.

Cameras

The optics on the Galaxy S21 FE are borrowed from its more expensive brother. Essentially, you’re looking at a 12-megapixel main shooter with dual pixel AF and OIS, along with an f/1.8 aperture lens, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera with an f/2.2 aperture lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with an f/2.4 aperture lens.

We haven’t taken the phone out to play yet to test it out for photos, but its triple camera arrangement is identical to the S21, so it’s not too far off the mark to say that you should expect the same kind of image quality as the more expensive flagship.

Performance, software, and battery

Just like the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 FE will come in two processor variants: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 for western markets like the US, and Samsung’s Exynos 2100 processor for the rest of the world, including the Philippines. The phone will have 8GB of RAM and will be offered in two storage options: 128GB and 256GB.

Obviously, some people will be disappointed that the phone doesn’t get Qualcomm’s top-end chip, and that’s understandable. That being said, the phone doesn’t feel slow at all and gets really good marks in our benchmark tests. Yes, it falls behind the Snapdragon 888, but in actual use, you really won’t even notice.

As far as software goes, the phone is one of the first Samsung devices to ship with Android 12 along with One UI 4 from the box. The phone feels quick and is relatively free from bloatware as long as you make sure to uncheck all the “suggested” items Samsung wants you to install at the beginning.

Battery-wise you’re not looking at a lot – there’s 4500mAh on tap, which should be enough but is a bit short of the usual 5000mAh we see on flagship devices. It should last you the whole day, though we’ll have to do our usual battery rundown to see how far the battery goes.

As for charging speeds, you’re stuck at a 25W – fast charging according to Samsung – and 15W for wireless charging.

Wrap-up and initial verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE looks to be a great phone in our short review of it for the Philippines, though its late arrival put it at a weird junction. While it looks to be great value on paper (especially at its price point), Samsung’s rivals are already prepping challengers for the new phone, though if you’re on the lookout for a solid, no-frills flagship, the Galaxy S21 FE should be in your shortlist.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Price Philippines

The Galaxy S21 FE has a price of Php 38,990 for the 8GB/128GB model and Php 41,990 for the 8GB/256GB model in the Philippines. Those pre-ordering until January 10 will get the Galaxy Buds Live with their purchase.

Those purchasing on January 11 will get 1 year of Samsung Care+ with their purchase.

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