Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G: The one for fans

Mala Bhargava | Updated on: Jan 17, 2022

It’s late to the party but it’s finally here — a new mix of specs to extend the flagship series

Samsung is kicking off 2022 with the launch of its S21 FE 5G at the CES2022, no less. By all rights, this phone should have come along sometime last year on the heels of the S21 flagship series. But the pandemic and component shortages put paid to that plan, so it couldn’t make it in time. But it is here now, and better late than never.

Of course by now Samsung is gearing up to launch its S22 series and users should have been able to buy an S22 FE in a few months, but the timeline for that is difficult to predict in these uncertain times.

The FE or Fan Edition is meant for those who don’t necessarily want to pay the really high price of the flagship series and are happy to have some of the advanced features on a device that doesn’t cost quite as much. The S20 FE and S20 FE 5G (₹47,999 but later ₹55,999) did very well over the past year and now it remains to be seen whether the S21 FE 5G will be able to continue the trend in a scenario where there is plenty of competition — some of it from Samsung itself.

The S21 FE 5G comes in a minimal bit of packaging. It’s just a slim little box and you know straight off that there’s no charger in there. It’s difficult to come to terms with this removal of the charging brick because it’s not consistent across all Samsung devices and it makes it inconvenient because one can’t just use an old charger that doesn’t necessarily support the charging speed. After paying about half a lakh, to not do us the courtesy of a charger just doesn’t feel right.

Colour range

The design of the S21 FE 5G follows that of the S21 series. There are differences, specially in the metallic gold toned accent on the camera housing, but you can see the phones are related. The S21 FE has a matte plastic back and is generally light and easy to hold. It’s narrow enough for a good grip and not slippery because of the material on the back. It’s held together with an aluminium framing and looks quite good. You have a bunch of colours to choose from, olive green being one of the more interesting ones this time around. My review unit is a light grey and looks fine, if a little staid.

The S21 FE 5G is actually not terribly different from the S21 regular — which costs ₹65,999. The experience is much the same. The S21 FE uses the Exynos 2100 chipset in our part of the world and not the Snapdragon 888 as in some countries. This is a matter of some annoyance to fans, but it turns out the Exynos performs just fine and in any case is the processor used on the main S21 series in India.

There is an 8GB+128GB variant for ₹49,999 and an 8GB+256GB one at ₹53,999. This is supposed to be an introductory price. There are, of course, cashback deals to explore.

The phones are running on Android 12 and Samsung’s OneUI 4, which I’m rather partial to because of its intuitiveness and familiarity, even if it does get away with too many pre-loaded apps and notifications from the Galaxy Store. Performance is zippy and smooth with good benchmark scores as well.

Wonderful display

The display on this phone is, as expected, quite wonderful. The bezels are practically non-existent and the colours resplendent on its 6.4 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X expanse. There’s just that little dot for the 32MP front camera interrupting the Gorilla Glass Victus on the display.

A 120Hz refresh rate is very much part of the experience, as is 240Hz touch sampling, all of it adding to the speed. There’s no headphone jack on this phone. All buttons are on the right and the fingerprint sensor is in-display. There’s also no slot for a micro-SD card.

The battery is a 4,500mAh and it lasts most of the day. A heavy user might just need to charge again. It supports 25W charging, a far cry from what the Chinese brigade is now offering.

The cameras, which are Samsung-good, are a 12MP primary, a 12MP wide angle and an 8MP telephoto. As ever, the colour science is great and you invariably get photos that have a slight artistic look to them. The camera app supports creative features.

Overall, the S21 FE 5G is almost like a phone from the main flagship S21 series with a mix of features put together to be able to offer a better price. One can only hope that price doesn’t change drastically down the line.

Published on January 17, 2022
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