Back in January, Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 FE 5G, a more affordable version of last year’s flagship S21. While it may have a lower price tag, the S21 FE 5G still promises to give users a flagship smartphone experience as it does feature a top-of-the-line processor, a high refresh rate AMOLED display, and a capable triple camera setup.
Along with these, the S21 Fan Edition features a slightly larger display and battery over the base S21 from last year. It even comes with the same IP68 water resistance. This means the S21 FE 5G doesn’t really lose all that much in terms of features, except for a telephoto shooter with a lower megapixel count.
On paper, the S21 FE 5G seems to be a true flagship, all while having a price tag that’s less than what you’d pay for a standard Samsung high-end smartphone. But does this phone deliver in actual use? And should you get it over competing flagships? Here’s our review!
To start things off, let’s take a look at the phone’s design. Looks-wise, the S21 FE 5G shares a similar style to the S21 lineup, but with some minor changes. Aside from coming in different colors (our review unit is in the Olive colorway), the camera module now shares the same look and finish at the rest of the back. For comparison, the S21 has a slightly different color for its camera module which made for a more distinct look.
While it may look a bit plain at first, the S21 FE 5G looks great in our eyes. Personally, I’m a fan of the more subdued look. Plus, the matte finish of the back also means the phone is not a fingerprint magnet, not to mention that it feels grippy even without a case. So if you prefer going caseless on your phone, you’ll like the S21 FE 5G.
Moving to the front, we can see the phones’ 6.4-inch display which has slim bezels and a small holepunch notch at the top. While I would’ve preferred the notch to be on the corner, I didn’t get distracted all that much by the camera cutout because of how small it is.
When reviewing higher-end Samsung devices, I usually have high expectations regarding their display. Often, Samsung phones have quality AMOLED screens, and the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is no different.
This phone packs a 6.4-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with an FHD+ resolution. Thanks to the AMOLED screen, the phone’s display produces vibrant colors and deep blacks, and on top of the good level of brightness, the S21 FE 5G offers a great binge-watching experience. If you often watch movies/shows on your phone, you won’t be disappointed with the S21 FE 5G.
As for audio, the onboard stereo speakers are also of great quality. Audio output is clear, and it gets quite loud without affecting audio quality too much. In fact, I wouldn’t mind watching a movie/show on the speakers if I were in a quiet room. Of course, I’d still prefer using headphones or external speakers, and to connect one, you’ll need a dongle or a Bluetooth device as this phone does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Similar to the S21, the Fan Edition phone is powered by an Exynos 2100. Given this, the S21 FE 5G performed just as well as the base S21 when it came to gaming.
For less demanding titles, the S21 FE 5G ram them smoothly, even at max settings. For example, League of Legends: Wild Rift ran at a solid 60FPS at the highest graphics setting.
Meanwhile, popular FPS games also ran well, including Call of Duty Mobile. Though do take note that this is not the most powerful flagship phone out there, so you won’t be able to max out games such as Genshin Impact. Also, the phone does run a bit warm when playing demanding games for a long time, but not enough to be uncomfortable.
What the S21 FE 5G does have going for it is its high refresh rate display. Thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, playing games that support 120FPS is a great experience on this phone. And for the most part, the phone should have enough power to run these kinds of titles.
Geek Photoshoot Capabilities
For its cameras, Samsung packed the S21 FE 5G with a 12MP wide + 12MP ultra-wide + 8MP telephoto (3x hybrid zoom) triple camera setup, along with a 32MP front shooter. The rear camera setup is similar to the S21 on paper, though it packs an 8MP telephoto instead of the S21’s 64MP camera.
First off though, the main shooter takes quality photos in daytime, with images having good detail and vibrant colors. No need to add filters or tweak settings with this main camera.
At night, the phone’s main camera also works well when using the built-in Night Mode, with photos turning out with good color and detail. Plus, the app usually uses Night Mode automatically when shooting in low light.
The 12MP ultrawide is also quite impressive for daytime, and it performs well for low light as well. Though you do need to select Night Mode manually for better ultrawide shots as the app doesn’t automatically switch to it unlike with the main camera.
Moving on to the 8MP telephoto, this camera captures good photos at 3x and even 10x zoom in daytime. Low light performance isn’t as good, but it should be acceptable for most users.
Finally, the phone’s front camera is able to take quality selfies that should satisfy social media savvy folks.
When it comes to everyday use, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G performed well as the phone did not slow down at any point during our time with it. It also helped that the S21 FE runs on OneUI, an Android user interface that I find to be one of the best in terms of ease-of-use and design.
One thing to note about the S21 FE 5G is that the battery life is not the best. While the phone can generally last for a day of use, there were times that I needed to charge it before my day ended when I used it heavily. I’m not exactly sure if this is just a problem with the review unit, though given the results in our review time, you may want to bring a power bank with you if you plan on using the S21 FE 5G.
Final Geek Lifestyle Verdict
So, should you get the Galaxy S21 FE 5G? If you’re eyeing a Samsung flagship but don’t want to spend for a full-price flagship, the S21 FE 5G is definitely worth considering. Even if if it’s a Fan Edition, the phone still has a flagship-level display, camera setup, and performance. Though the battery life could be a bit better.
Overall, at its starting price of PHP 38,990, the S21 FE 5G is still more expensive than flagship-killer Android phones. But it does come with more guaranteed updates, as well as polished software and great cameras that can make it worth splurging on over other almost-flagship contenders.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G specs:
- 6.4-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz refresh rate
- Exynos 2100 processor (5nm process)
- 8GB RAM
- 128GB/256GB storage
- Rear cameras: 12MP wide + 12MP ultra-wide + 8MP telephoto (3x hybrid zoom)
- Front camera: 32MP
- 5G, LTE
- Ultrasonic Fingerprint scanner, IP68 certification, USB Type-C port
- 4,500mAh battery with 25W Fast charging + Fast Wireless charging + wireless PowerShare
- Android 12 (One UI 4)
- 128GB – PHP 38,990
- 256GB – PHP 41,990