Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: Flagship specs, excellent reception and Samsung goodies (2023)

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The Samsung Galaxy S20 FEwas released in October 2020 and was quite a hit for Samsung. It started at $699.99 with some great Samsung and carrier launch specials and offered a very enjoyable experience for the masses. I recommended it to family and friends who didn't want to pay $1,000 for a Samsung phoneand they say it is one of the best phones they have used.

Also:The best Samsung phones: Explore a new Galaxy

The smartphone landscape has changed a bit since then, and if the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5Ghad launched in September 2021, then it might have been easier to recommend. For Samsung fans who are not going to buy the S22 flagship, it's a great option. It may be a good buy for Android smartphone users who want to pay $700 or less for a phone. For those just looking for an affordable Android phone, there are other options where you can save even more money and have a solid smartphone experience. We'll discuss these groups in more detail below.

The FE in the name stands for Fan Edition, and in late 2020 that meant buyers picked up a phone with mostly flagship specs, a microSD card slot for storage expansion, wireless charging, 5Gsupport, and more. Some people voiced a desire for a FE to have a 3.5mm headset jack, but that wasn't included. I'm not quite sure why this current S21 FE is a Fan Edition since it doesn't include a microSD card slot or much of anything that lends itself to a FE moniker. It has a few muted color options, but they aren't as flashy as the S20 FE, so maybe the 32MP front-facing camera is what sets it apart from other Samsung phones.

8.3/10 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G Excellent $699 at Samsung


  • High-end specifications
  • Gorgeous and responsive display
  • Outstanding cellular reception
  • Capable rear camera system
  • DeX, Gallery, and Samsung Internet installed


  • Priced $100 too high
  • Plastic back may bother some

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G starts at $699.99 with four color options. The time to buy it is now with some great launch offers that currently include $100 instant Samsung store credit or free Galaxy Buds Live or $30 Galaxy Buds Pro, and fairly generous trade-in offers for your existing phone.

(Video) Galaxy S21 FE 5G review


The Galaxy S21 is similar to the S21 FE in that both have matte plastic back panels instead of glass. I have zero concerns with the use of plastic, given it is more likely to survive a drop. Many people also put their phone in a case, so the material of the back is of little concern. The fact that matte finishes are used is more important since no fingerprints appear when you hold and use the phone. The S21 FE is also $100 less than the S21, and I would definitely recommend the S21 FE over the S21 at this time.

The Super AMOLED display is gorgeous, as expected from Samsung, and the 120 Hz display provides a flawless display experience. It is great to see a flat glass panel with minimal bezels and a small center hole-punch front-facing camera. The matte finish on the aluminum frame is also great since that helps you grip the phone.

Power and volume buttons are positioned on the right side with the USB-C port, bottom speaker, and SIM card slot on the bottom. A mic opening is on the top with nothing on the phone's left side.

See also:Best Samsung phone 2022: Explore a new Galaxy.

There are three cameras on the back of the S21 FE with a contour-cut look seen on the S21 series, but more subtle with matte plastic construction. The cameras are very capable, with plenty of software options available, including dual recording to capture video content from the front-facing camera at the same time as a rear camera.

I purchased a Pixel 6 Proin December but returned it after experiencing terrible cellular reception performance. This is one area where Samsung stands above others, and it's the same situation here with rock-solid RF performance. Calls sound great, download speeds are fast, and you can trust a Samsung phone to get the job done.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Main display: 6.4-inch, 2400 x 1080 pixels resolution, Dynamic AMOLED 2X with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Operating system: Android 12 with OneUI 4.0
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB internal storage
  • Cameras: 8MP rear f/2.4 telephoto with 3x hybrid optic zoom, 12MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera, and 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera (123 degrees field-of-view). 32MP f/2.2 front-facing camera.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
  • Dust/water resistance: IP68 rating
  • Battery: 4500 mAh non-removable with fast wireless charging. Wireless PowerShare is also available.
  • Dimensions: 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm and 177g
  • Colors: Graphite, Lavender, Olive, White

There isn't much to differentiate the S21 FE from the S21 seriesof phones besides the plastic back panel and lower resolution cameras. Price is $100 to $300 less for the S21 FE too.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: in pics

(Video) Samsung Galaxy A53 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G - Who Will Win?


The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G launches with Android 12 and Samsung One UI 4.0. The November 1, 2021, Android security update is present on our review unit, but that tardiness could be due to T-Mobile or the fact that the device is not yet publicly available. Samsung has a proven solid record of regular security updates, so I'm not worried about it here on this phone either.

One thing I am pleased to see on the S21 is the ability to have Google Discover on the far left home screen panel. You can still switch to Samsung Free, but it's great to see Samsung providing users with options. In the past, I always turned off this panel because I didn't find Samsung's offering very compelling. OnePlus and its old Shelf home screen panel are the same for me.

Facebook is installed by default, but you can now fully uninstall it rather than just disable it, and I certainly did as soon as I fired up the app launcher. We still find some Samsung apps, such as Internet, Messages, Samsung Notes, Samsung Health, and a few others, but you are given the option to select these apps during setup, so you do not have to install them all and have more control over your phone than you did in the past. Many of these are actually better than the Google equivalent too, such as Samsung Internet and the Gallery.

DeX wireless support is provided so you can connect the S21 FE to a PC or monitor and enjoy a PC-like experience powered by the phone. We also see excellent integration with Microsoft Outlook, OneDrive, Office, and Teams, which is perfect for enterprise customers. It's impressive to attach a small Galaxy S21 tosomething likethe NexDock 360 Touchand have a laptop experience all powered by a small and very capable smartphone.

See also:Best Android phone 2022: Top expert picks.

(Video) Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus 3 Months Later!

The Single Take option in the software has also been enhanced with the ability to toggle what types of results you want the phone to create, including highlight videos, Boomerang clips, filtered photos, collages, and more. You can have a lot of fun with Single Take on a Samsung phone. Other modes in the camera include dual recording, portrait video, hyperlapse, AR doodle, super slow motion, and more.

I've always enjoyed Samsung's Gallery app for managing and editing my photos, so I was pleased to see it includes an option to sync to OneDrive from right within the Gallery. The Gallery app can also be setup to automatically create curated collections of photos and videos and present them as stories. Manual story creation is also an option for S21 FE owners.

Edge panels are also available for S21 FE users, so I quickly setup my favorite contact shortcuts, weather, and metric ruler panels. Link to Windows, Smart View sharing to other Samsung devices (like my Samsung TVs), and all of the other Samsung goodies are present in the S21 FE.

Who should consider the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE?

Other reviewers have had the phone a bit longer than me due to winter storm delivery delays, so after I wrote my review, I went and checked out what others had to say about the phone. Many reviews stated that the Galaxy S21 FE didn't have a place in January 2022, but I think it's actually a good option for the right customer. Let's take a closer look at some possible customer scenarios:

  • Samsung fan who doesn't want a $1,000 flagship: This person likes the Samsung UI, ecosystem, and additional apps, as well as all of the customization options in the settings and advanced camera software. The S21 FE offers nearly the same experience as the S21 for $100 less and arguably the same experience for 95% of the functions that an S21 Ultra offers for $300 less. The phone has DeX, a fabulous display, and solid battery life, so it's a great choice for this person.
  • Android user who wants to pay $700 or less for a phone: Many might say that this person should pick up the Google Pixel 6for $100 less, at $599, as a better option to the S21 FE. I wish that were the case, but after using one and experiencing very poor cellular reception and just OK battery life, I would buy the S21 FE instead. The Pixel 6 will get timely software updates and does have a great camera experience, but it sports a new Google processor and Google hardware does not have a solid track record for reliability.
  • People who want an inexpensive smartphone: $700 is better than $1,000, but for those looking for a phone that is $500, $400, or less than this is not the phone for them. The Pixel 5a with 5Gis a fantastic option that is currently priced at $449 and sometimes on sale for $399. The TCL 20 Pro 5Gis also asolid optionavailable for $499.99. Motorola also has very affordable options for mid-range phones.
See it here: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE $699 at Samsung

Daily usage experiences

I never had the chance to test drive the Galaxy S20 FE, but several family members have it, and so I have tried it out occasionally over the past year. It's a solid smartphone that appeals to long-time Samsung fans who did not want to pay $1,000 for a new phone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G slides right into that same spot with improved specifications across the board, the latest Android software, and the same $699.99 starting price. I think it would be a killer option with a starting price of $599.99, but some launch specials make it equivalent to that if you need a Samsung accessory.

The back is plastic, but the matte finish feels and looks great with no fingerprints and some added grip to it. The phone is also fairly light, despite having a very large 4,500 mAh battery, so the plastic back was a good move by Samsung, in my opinion. It should also survive short drops better than a phone with a glass back panel.

When I buy a phone, I need it to perform in all locations, including in areas where others may see spotty cellular coverage. Samsung is the best at cellular connectivity, and this is one major reason I sent back the Pixel 6 and would consider a Galaxy S21 FE if I didn't already commit to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. Phones need to connect to the network to help you get work done, so this capability is a significant factor when selecting a smartphone.

The S21 FE isn't a flashy phone, but it checks all of the boxes and has a reasonable launch price. The cameras performed very well, the battery will get you through at least a full day, and all of the Samsung goodness is contained in the package.

Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: Flagship specs, excellent reception and Samsung goodies (13)

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(Video) Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Full Review!


Is Samsung S21 FE 5G worth buying? ›

Its price might be low, but it's not so much lower to make it a no-brainer purchase as we saw with the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. For specific types of buyers, the Galaxy S21 FE might be a good choice. For most, though, checking out the Galaxy S22 might be worth it.

Is Samsung S21 FE a good phone? ›

The Galaxy S21 FE is a fine addition to Samsung's S21 lineup, retaining the very best features of those flagship phones for a more modest price. The tradeoffs you have to make to save $100 aren't major ones, with the biggest sacrifice being the lack of an adaptive display as that can impact battery life.

Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE better than the Samsung Galaxy S21? ›

The Galaxy S21 FE offers a slightly larger FHD+ Dynamic display which may be more beneficial if you work or game a lot on your phone. Both phones have industry leading cameras but if you're looking for an exceptional Telephoto lens opt for the Galaxy S21 with its 64-megapixels.

Is Samsung Galaxy S21 FE a flagship phone? ›

The Galaxy S21 FE is what Samsung terms the 'Fan Edition' of the Galaxy S21 flagship launched in 2021. It comes with flagship-level specs but at a more affordable price. Whereas the Galaxy S20 FE was launched shortly after the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S21 FE comes quite a while after the Galaxy S21.

Does Samsung S21 FE 5G overheat? ›

Overheating Concerns

The Galaxy S21 FE 5G supports Adaptive Fast Charging, and therefore is likely to get warm during charging. This is expected, especially if the device is being operated while it is charging. If the device gets warm during normal use, please see the tips above.

Is Samsung S21 FE worth buying in 2022? ›

The Galaxy S21 FE offers everything you want from a top-tier Android flagship in 2022, and it does so for a relatively cheaper price. So why bother spending $100 more on Samsung's current flagship, the Galaxy S22? Well, the Galaxy S21 FE is a great phone but the Galaxy S22 also has a lot going for it.

Why does my S21 FE battery drain so fast? ›

The more unused apps there are running in the background, the more power your battery will use. Background usage limits can be set to reduce battery consumption.

How long will Samsung S21 FE last? ›

Well, Samsung promises three Android OS updates and four years of security updates to all its high-end phones and some mid-range phones. Going by that commitment, the Galaxy S21 FE should get three major Android OS updates: Android 13, Android 14, and Android 15.

What is special about the S21 FE? ›

To the S21 FE's benefit, it has a larger display (6.2” on the S21, versus 6.4” on the FE), but to its detriment, the FE's battery is 500mAh smaller. The S21 FE also lacks Samsung's new under-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensing tech, and instead uses an optical sensor.

Why was Samsung S21 FE Cancelled? ›

The other issue that has reportedly resulted in the cancelation of the S21 FE is the ongoing global chip shortage issue. Samsung introduced the Galaxy Z Flip 3 in August with aggressive pricing of $999. It not only comes with updated specs but also an improved design.

Which is better S21 FE or S22? ›

The Galaxy S22, which launched at $800 but is currently priced at $725 through Samsung, is better suited for those who want better camera quality and prefer smaller devices. The S21 FE, on the other hand, is for those who prioritize screen size and a lower price.

What does the FE stand for in Samsung? ›

But the “Fan Edition” part of the name is apt; unless you're really devoted to Samsung's product ecosystem, there are better values out there in the world of mid-range Android phones.

What are the issues with Samsung S21 FE? ›

Common Issues in Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
  • 1 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G Common Problems and Solutions.
  • 2 High Battery Drainage Problem in Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G.
  • 3 Screen Gets Stuck & Unresponsive in Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G.
  • 4 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G Stuck on Boot Screen.
  • 5 Overheating Problem in Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G.
Jan 1, 2023

What are the issues with the S21 FE? ›

After many users use this device, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is facing common problems like network, fingerprint scanner, battery drain, overheating, and Bluetooth connectivity issues. But don't worry, I will give you a proven solution to solve all these problems, so read this post till the end.

Should i get Samsung S20 FE or S21 FE? ›

Both have similar displays, audio, connectivity features, and batteries. If you are coming from the Exynos 990 version of the Galaxy S20 FE, the Galaxy S21 FE could be a good upgrade as you'll get faster performance, 5G connectivity, and more extended software update support.

Why is my Samsung S21 FE so hot? ›

Your device is running a power-intensive app. Your device is being used in a case or cover. A software update is available for your device. Your device is being used in hot weather.

Does S21 FE have heating problems? ›

M experiencing frequent heating issue in my Samsung s21 Fe with the Normal usage like even watching videos on yt phone gets heated up..and this is resulting in fast draining of battery...

How long does the Samsung S21 FE 5G battery last? ›

With its 4,500mAh battery, the Galaxy S21 FE squeezed out 666 minutes of continuous uptime before giving up the ghost. This is a little disappointing considering the almost similar S20 FE from last year has 100 minutes more run time.

Does Samsung S21 FE have good camera quality? ›

Even in low light, the Galaxy S21 FE's primary rear camera manages to retain a good amount of details while efficiently suppressing most of the digital noise. The 8MP telephoto sensor managed to get us lossless images up to 3X optical zoom. There's also digital zoom up to 30X which is not advisable to use.

Is the S21 FE worse? ›

The Galaxy S21 FE is not significantly better than the Galaxy S21, and in some ways (such as the telephoto camera), it's a bit worse. The screen is slightly larger, and it has three major Android OS updates left (as opposed to 2 updates left on the Galaxy S21), but that's not enough to warrant spending more money.

Does S21 FE have battery problems? ›

My battery drains too much even when I don't use it. 2 - 3% battery is drained every hour during overnight. I have even put my phone in safe mode. Still the issue persists.

Why is my Samsung S21 FE so slow? ›

My Samsung Galaxy S21 5G Android 11.0 is slow

If you've used many applications on the phone, it may get slow because the applications keep running in the background. Solution: End running applications. Press the Application key. To end one running application, slide your finger upwards on the required application.

Is 128gb enough for Samsung S21 FE? ›

The model does not have microSD card support, but 128 GB in the basic configuration should be enough for most potential users. The Galaxy S21 FE's performance is on the same level with other flagship smartphones of the last year, and it's more than enough for comfortable use of Android apps.

Is the S21 FE a budget phone? ›

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is affordable, but it's anything but cheap | TechRepublic.

Is Galaxy S21 FE 5G waterproof? ›

Galaxy S21 FE 5G is rated as IP68. Based on test conditions for submersion in up to 1.5 meters of freshwater for up to 30 minutes. Not advised for beach or pool use.

Which is the best Samsung phone in 2022? ›

5 Best 5G android mobile phones in India
  • Galaxy A73 5G. Buy now. ...
  • Galaxy S22 Ultra. Galaxy S22 Ultra is very slim in 17.31cm (6.8”) screen size with a bold look and linear camera. ...
  • Galaxy S22/S22+ Express yourself with the range of colors, phantom white, phantom black, and green in a sleek design. ...
  • Galaxy S21 FE 5G. ...
  • Galaxy A53.

Is the S21 FE worth it over the S20 Fe? ›

Both have similar displays, audio, connectivity features, and batteries. If you are coming from the Exynos 990 version of the Galaxy S20 FE, the Galaxy S21 FE could be a good upgrade as you'll get faster performance, 5G connectivity, and more extended software update support.

How long will the S21 FE last? ›

With its 4,500mAh battery, the Galaxy S21 FE squeezed out 666 minutes of continuous uptime before giving up the ghost. This is a little disappointing considering the almost similar S20 FE from last year has 100 minutes more run time.

What is the difference between Samsung S21 FE 5G and S20 FE 5G? ›

The S21 FE also offers a 240Hz Touch Sampling Rate in Game Mode. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has a slightly larger 6.5-inch display than what is offered on the S21 FE, though it has the same Full HD+ resolution and it also has a 120Hz refresh rate.

Does the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE have a glass back? ›

Around back, the S21 FE still features Samsung's Contour Cut design, but instead of having a camera bump with a metal shroud, the phone's back is made from a single piece of matte plastic. (Samsung calls it glastic because it's plastic that kind of feels kind of like glass.)

Is S21 FE better than S22? ›

The Galaxy S21 FE doesn't have the improvements that Samsung has made to nighttime photography, and its design is less exciting than that of the Galaxy S22. But the S21 FE has a noticeably larger screen than the S22, a sharper selfie camera and, most importantly, a lower price.

Does the S21 FE take good pictures? ›

The telephoto camera in the S21 FE is capable of taking photos with an optical zoom to 3x and a hybrid zoom to 30x. During the day it provides a good level of detail, a fairly wide dynamic range and detects white balance correctly.


1. Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21 FE: Which Should You Buy? (Review)
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2. Samsung Galaxy S21 5G - A Few Days Later
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3. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: Problems Solved!
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4. Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 FE 5G - A tale of two similar phones
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5. Samsung S21 FE Review - BIG Problems! DO NOT BUY!
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6. Google Pixel 7 & 7 Pro Review - Ridiculous.
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