Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE Is Great. Just Don’t Pay Full Price

That doesn’t really matter here because Samsung stuffed a slightly larger 4,500-mAh battery (versus 4,000-mAh on the S21) and it comfortably lasts a full day—sometimes enough to last well into the following morning, depending on usage. This is arguably the only area where the S21 FE markedly excels over its predecessor. The S21 lasted me a day, but just barely. 

Camera Talk

The measure of a good camera is when I’m not hesitant to take photos with it. That can happen a lot when you test as many phones as I do, with varying degrees of camera quality. I’m happy to say that I have taken heaps of photos since I started testing the S21 FE. And I like ’em! 

The triple-camera system retains a similar, if not the exact, same 12-megapixel main sensor and a 12-MP ultrawide as the original Galaxy S21. The results from these are sharp, colorful, and often well-exposed, though not as contrasty as I like. Even at night with Samsung’s dedicated Night mode, you can usually expect a blur-free image that’s reasonably well-detailed. 

Where things diverge is the telephoto zoom camera. You still get a 3x optical zoom, but the sensor steps down from 64 megapixels to 8. It can take some pretty great shots during the day, but at night, I almost always preferred the S21’s 64-MP zoom camera. It produced more detailed photos with nicer colors. It’s the inverse story with the selfie camera: the S21 FE has a 32-megapixel sensor, a bump up from the 10-MP selfie shooter on the S21. My selfies on the FE had more contrast, better skin tones, and finer details.  

Awkward Timing

There honestly isn’t much to dislike here. Just about the only bug I’ve run into is with Samsung’s Gallery app, which triggers the blue-light filter and makes the screen yellow, even when I have the filter turned off. Otherwise, the S21 FE runs everything well, has a pretty screen, versatile cameras, and a reliable battery. Oh, and Samsung guarantees three Android OS upgrades and four years of security updates, which is among the best in the industry for Android phones.

But is it worth $700? I’d say the $599 Google Pixel 6 is better value with its more helpful software features and stronger camera system. Sure, it lacks a 3x optical zoom camera, but Google’s image processing is so good it delivered a better digitally zoomed photo (specifically at night) than the S21 FE. 

If the upcoming S22 costs $800 like its predecessor, you’re likely missing out on some valid upgrades for nearly the same price. Fan or not, you should wait for a sale. 


Author: showrunner