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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is a phone that’s not “good enough”, but don’t blame its specs

11 months after the roll out of Samsung’s S21 line up, the Fan Edition version is finally here. With a slightly lower price tag, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE offers fan-favourite features and specs from the flagship family.

Samsung’s last stint at an FE version of its flagship phones was the S20 FE. It packed a punch with a more affordable price tag, proving rather popular amongst fans.

I received the S21 FE in white, and I must say, it feels good using a phone with a gorilla glass screen again, after 3 months of using the Z Flip3 that has a rather delicate flexible screen. 

But like the Z Flip3, the S21 FE is slippery to hold. Those familiar with Samsung’s releases may feel that the S21 FE’s matte-finished back and colours carry a design that’s reminiscent of the A72

It kinda looks like a mix of the Galaxy S21 and A72

Though if you look closely, its camera housing takes more inspiration from the S21 lineup, just with a plastic bump rather than a metal finish that bleeds into the phone’s chassis. 

But it’s not all about looks

I’ve been using Samsung phones since 2018, and one thing I’m sure of is that its screens never disappoint. The S21 FE’s 6.4-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display is bright, vibrant, and overall attractive.

Its Super Smooth 120Hz refresh rate was indeed super smooth to look at, be it for videos, games, or general social media scrolling. 

Equipped with a 4,500mAh battery, the phone easily lasted through a day of my moderate use, even with the screen smoothness setting at its 120Hz default. You could switch it to the 60Hz setting to save more power, but I haven’t needed to do so. 

The vibrant, attractive screen

Charging the phone, however, could require up to 2 hours. 

This is because while the S21 FE supports 15W wireless charging and fast 25W wired charging, it requires a compatible power brick to do so which isn’t included in the box. It only comes with a USB-C cable.

Using a 40W charger, I could get the S21 FE from 30% to 100% within an hour. So to really enjoy this perk, you’d have to fork out some extra money on a higher voltage charging brick.

Your standard good cameras

Featuring the same main rear camera as the standard S21 model, 12MP wide, and ultra-wide cameras, the S21 FE performed well as expected. 

The 8MP telephoto camera also comes with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and up to 30x zoom, which is able to capture a decent amount of details, albeit looking a little like a smudged watercolour painting.

Night mode renders are impressive, preserving enough detail in the photo so long as your subject remains still.

Night mode does a pretty good job on its own

When set up for the first time, the 32MP selfie camera will ask you to choose between “natural” and “bright” colour tones. I’m sure most who aren’t fond of Samsung’s post-filtering qualities can appreciate this.

The S21 FE’s cameras take photos that are bright and saturated, as we’ve come to expect from Samsung. Details in them remain crisp too, unless you’re zooming in on something at the 10x or above marks. 

Pretty good performance

Despite the lower price point, the S21 FE also includes the same high-end Snapdragon 888 processor and 8GB RAM with 256GB internal storage like the rest of the S21 series. 

Throughout my on-and-off usage on social apps, light arcade games, texting, etc. I found the S21 FE’s performance rather seamless, with it able to open and jump between apps quickly.

Gaming for an hour did heat up the phone, but not to the same concerning level I’ve felt with the Z Flip3.

The only place I noticed a bit of lag is in unlocking the phone with its optical fingerprint sensor. Lagging is minute but the physical fingerprint scanners like the one I’m used to on the Z Flip3 still can’t be beat in this area.

A customisable colour palette (to an extent)

One tiny feature I thought was a nice touch was the phone’s Android 12-based One UI 4.0 that allows for more customisation. For example, if you set a photo as your wallpaper, the phone will suggest a complementary colour palette to apply to its buttons and icons.

Useless? Kind of. But pleasing to my eyes? 100%.

Verdict

The S21 FE doesn’t disappoint and has everything you’d need from a good, reliable phone. Yet, somehow… it’s still not good enough.

I can’t say that the S21 FE’s “lower” price point is a steal if you’re looking for a flagship that’s more affordable. Priced at RM3,099 for the 256GB model and RM2,899 for 128GB, the S21 FE is only RM100-RM300 cheaper than the standard S21 at RM3,199 (while on promo).

Plus, with the release of Samsung’s S22 flagships underway, even the S21 models could be put on more discounted prices.

For now, while I have little grievances with the S21 FE, I can’t exactly recommend it to anyone due to its price point. 

I’ll be spending a lot more time with this phone for another review soon, and if my perspectives change by then, I’ll be sure to share why.

ProsCons
Long-lasting battery, even while using the 120Hz refresh ratePlastic back makes it look less premium
Reliable cameras that aren’t overly filteredRequires a fast charging brick to benefit the phone’s fast charge capabilities
Ultra-customisableHigh price tag for a mid-ranged phone
  • You can learn more about the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE here.
  • Read more VP Verdicts here.

VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page.

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(UEN 201431998C.)

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