With the Samsung Galaxy S22 simply across the nook, it might sound a little bit of an odd second to launch a cellphone primarily based on final yr’s Galaxy S21 flagship, however Samsung clearly thinks it’s the best time to launch the Galaxy S21 FE 5G.
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Focused on the extra cost-conscious Samsung aficionado – the FE tag stands, quite cringingly, for “Fan Version” – the S21 FE 5G follows carefully within the footsteps of the S20 FE, a cellphone that we rated on the time for its price range tackle the full-fat Galaxy S20.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE assessment: What you have to know
And similar to final yr’s FE, this yr’s version consists of broadly comparable internals and specs to Samsung’s 2021 flagships, albeit with a barely decrease record value than the unique had at launch. In a nutshell, you’re getting flagship-class options at a extra modest price.
The Galaxy S21 FE shares the 120Hz, FHD+ show of the common mannequin, though it measures an additional 0.2in throughout the diagonal (6.4in). It additionally has a triple digital camera array on the rear, with a major 12MP sensor working alongside an 8MP 3x optical zoom digital camera and one other 12MP 123-degree ultrawide unit. The identical 32MP selfie digital camera sits on the entrance of the handset.
Probably the most notable distinction, nonetheless, is that the Galaxy S21 FE has opted for Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 888, quite than going for Samsung’s do-it-yourself Exynos 2100 equal (discovered inside the conventional S21 within the UK). Architecturally talking, each of those chipsets are just about equivalent, so there’s probability you received’t discover a distinction between the 2 in common use anyway – however we’ll discover out later on this assessment.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE assessment: Value and competitors
What about that value, then? The Galaxy S21 FE is accessible from 11 January within the UK, beginning at £699 for the 128GB mannequin and rising to £749 for the 256GB variant. The common Galaxy S21, which launched 12 months prior, price both £769 or £819 for a similar storage choices, which means you’re solely actually getting a small low cost of £50 or £60 right here.
After all, because it’s now a yr outdated, you may also be capable of choose one up for across the similar value (or barely cheaper) as this yr’s FE, in the event you store round. Nonetheless, it appears the Galaxy S21 is out of inventory at a bunch of shops on the time of scripting this assessment, so there’s probability that it’s nearing finish of life.
As for contract costs, the S21 FE begins at £35 a month at Carphone Warehouse, which supplies you 20GB of month-to-month information with iD Cellular.
The S21 FE’s most evident rival is Google’s brand-new Pixel 6, which begins at simply £599. That £100 saving will get you probably the most versatile digital camera preparations to this point, paired with a lavishly refined software program expertise not like some other available on the market. Basically, the Pixel 6 is a handset that may take some beating – the S21 FE has a troublesome process forward.
On the opposite aspect of the smartphone coin, you’ll discover Apple’s iPhone 13. In case you don’t thoughts ditching Android and also you’re keen to pay the Apple tax, count on to spend not less than £779 for the fundamental mannequin with 128GB of inner storage.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE assessment: Design and key options
At first look, the S21 FE 5G may be very comparable in look to the unique S21. It has that “contour minimize” housing across the three cameras on the rear and is available in an analogous array of pastel shades. On this case, you’ll be capable of choose up an S21 FE in a selection of 4 colors: white, graphite, olive or lavender.
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Just like the FE from final yr and the S21, the rear is comprised of matte-finish plastic, which is shocking in a cellphone costing nigh on £700. It would not really feel significantly low cost within the hand, nonetheless, and it has the profit that it is extraordinarily mild for such a big cellphone, weighing a mere 177g.
The cellphone helps wi-fi charging speeds as much as 15W, with wired 25W charging by way of the USB-C port on the backside. The S21 FE, like its predecessor, can also be able to reverse wi-fi charging supported gadgets, such because the Galaxy Buds 2 – you merely place them on the handset’s rear and allow the function within the cellphone’s settings.
Like the remainder of the vary, the Galaxy S21 FE can also be IP68-rated for cover towards mud and water, and the show sits beneath a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus. As for unlocking, it helps face recognition and incorporates an in-display fingerprint sensor, which is beneficial in the event you’re carrying a masks and wish to use your cellphone for contactless card funds.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE assessment: Show
In a shock improvement, the S21 FE’s show is definitely a bit bigger than the S21’s, however with comparable capabilities. It’s a high-refresh-rate 120Hz unit – not adaptive – however with the identical 2,400 x 1,080 decision and 2x Dynamic OLED tech, measuring 6.4in (the S21 is “solely” 6.2in).
Except for the variations in dimensions, the standard of the S21 FE’s show stays unchanged. You continue to get the choice to change between two show modes – Pure and Vivid – with the previous being essentially the most colour-accurate of the 2. In our exams, the S21 FE’s panel coated 90% of the sRGB color gamut on this mode, with a complete protection of 91%. And with a measured Delta E of 1.73, you possibly can’t actually do significantly better, both.
Brightness peaks at 634cd/m2 with a torch shining on the ambient mild sensor, and reaches 1,000cd/m2 when displaying HDR video. On that be aware, HDR movies and TV exhibits regarded completely excellent, boosting the highlights within the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher TV collection in spectacular trend.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE assessment: Efficiency and battery life
Inside, the Galaxy S21 FE comes with an analogous lineup of core componentry because the common S21, with the 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset on the helm, backed by 6GB of RAM, and both 128GB or 256GB of inner storage to your apps, images and residential films.
What this implies is that the S21 FE delivered largely comparable outcomes because the S21 in our exams, matching single-core speeds in Geekbench 5, with the full-fat S21 coming off solely barely higher in multi-core. It’s just about as nippy because it will get – not less than till the primary Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 flagships begin to trickle in.
It’s an analogous story with regards to gaming, too. The S21 FE beat the Pixel 6’s Tensor chipset within the GFXBench Manhattan benchmarks, drawing stage with the S21’s rating from final yr. It’s value mentioning that whereas the iPhone 13’s off-screen body price may look spectacular, not like the S21 FE, you’re restricted by a bog-standard 60Hz show. Supplied the sport helps it, excessive body price gaming is certainly on the playing cards for the S21 FE.
Sadly, whereas the battery is equivalent in capability at 4,500mAh, the S21 FE’s stamina is the worst of the lot. Reaching solely 15hrs 42mins in our video rundown take a look at, the S21 FE falls three hours in need of the S21 and virtually 5 hours behind the iPhone 13 below the identical circumstances.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE assessment: Cameras
The S21 FE 5G’s cameras are fairly near what you get with the older Galaxy S21. Certainly, the primary digital camera’s specs are equivalent, taking pictures 12MP pictures from a 1/1.76in, f/1.8 sensor with 1.8um pixels and optical picture stabilisation (OIS).
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Solely the telephoto and ultrawide cameras are completely different, each coming with barely smaller sensors and the telephoto with a dimmer aperture. In the meantime, the specs of the telephoto digital camera are unchanged from these of the S20 FE, with a 1/4.4in f/2.4 sensor, a 3x optical zoom functionality and OIS.
Unsurprisingly, pictures taken on the S21 FE’s major sensor are phenomenal. There’s loads of element, a great deal of distinction and little or no visible noise – though a number of the colors did look a bit too vibrant for my style. Night time footage are additionally great, with the cellphone’s HDR algorithm working properly to subdue vibrant highlights whereas concurrently lifting darker areas.
The identical can’t be mentioned in regards to the S21 FE’s ultrawide sensor. There’s little or no element on this mode – even in vibrant environments – with zero texture in panorama images. Fortunately, the 3x telephoto zoom digital camera works very properly, even when mild ranges are low. The utmost 30x optical zoom is okay sufficient, however as all the time it’s extra of a gimmick than anything.
Portrait pictures are additionally excellent. Certain, the Pixel 6 remains to be prime canine – its blurred backgrounds are a step above – however there’s loads of facial element and topics stood out fairly properly towards the backdrop.
As for video, the S21 FE can seize footage at as much as 4K 60fps, totally stabilised. With the earlier mannequin, you needed to cut back the body price to 30fps in the event you needed to document at 4K decision with stabilisation. Footage is crisp, detailed and rock-steady.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE assessment: Verdict
First out the gate, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE had the potential to be the primary must-have cellphone of 2022. With an analogous design and specs to final yr’s flagship Galaxy S21, however at a decrease launch value of £699 and a bigger show, it regarded prefer it may need been a little bit of a cut price for what it affords.
Nonetheless, now that I’ve spent a while utilizing it, the S21 FE’s barely diminished launch value is a bit an excessive amount of to pay for a cellphone that’s virtually equivalent to final yr’s “regular” mannequin. Pair these similarities with a battery life hit and issues begin to flip bitter.
After all, in the event you’re a Samsung devotee and simply can’t wait to get your Galaxy repair, the S21 FE remains to be a good different, with a top-notch set of cameras and a fantastic show, nevertheless it may be greatest to attend just a bit whereas longer for the S22 to reach earlier than you make any snap choices on which cellphone to purchase subsequent. For everybody else, purchase the Pixel 6 as a substitute.