Tuesday, March 28

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21 | Digital Trends Spanish

Does it make sense for someone to buy the Galaxy S21 FE when they can get the S21 for just $100 more? Does being newer make the S21 FE any better than the S21 (besides price)? That is precisely what we set out to investigate in this head-to-head comparison: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Samsung Galaxy S21.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Galaxy S21
Dimensions 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm (6.12 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches) 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm (6 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 177 grams (6.24 ounces) 171 grams (6.03 ounces)
Screen size 6.4-inch capacitive Dynamic AMOLED 2X (120Hz) 6.2-inch capacitive Dynamic AMOLED 2X (120Hz)
Screen resolution 2,400 x 1,080 pixels (411 ppi) 2,400 x 1,080 pixels (421 ppi)
Operating system Android 12, OneUI 4.0 Android 11 with OneUI 3.1
Storage 128GB, 256GB 128GB and 256GB
Micro SD slot No No
Tap-to-pay services GooglePay Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Camera rear: Wide 12 MP, Ultra Wide 12 MP, Telephoto 8 MP.

Frontal: 32MP

Rear: triple lens, 12 MP wide, 12 MP ultra wide, and 64 MP telephoto.

Frontal: 10MP

Video 4K at 60FPS 8K up to 30 FPS, 4K up to 60 FPS, 1080p at 240 FPS
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.1
ports USB-C, 3.1 USB-C, 3.1
Digital fingerprint reader yes, on screen yes (on screen)
Waterproof IP68 IP68
Battery 4,500mAh

Fast charge (25W)

Wireless fast charging (15W)


25W fast charge (Not include charger)

Wireless charging 15W

Reverse wireless charging

app store Google Play Store Google Play Store
network support Main suppliers Main suppliers
Colors olive, lavender, white, graphite Grey, white, pink and purple
Price From $699 dollars From $799 dollars

Design, display and durability

Thanks to the Galaxy S21 lineage, both phones share the same familiar look and even the untrained eye might find it hard to tell them apart, especially from the front. The subtle differences are on the back panel, where the Galaxy S21’s camera bump has a more premium finish compared to that of the S21 FE.

Both phones have a polycarbonate back panel, although the S21 has a more premium “glass” build compared to the plastic on the S21 FE, which is also slightly larger of the two, but it’s a small difference.

That larger size means the Galaxy S21 FE’s 6.4-inch display is slightly larger than the S21’s 6.2-inch panel, but the rest of the specs are nearly identical. Both screens are 2x Samsung AMOLED panels with the same resolution (1,080 x 2,400 pixels). The similarities extend to HDR10+ support and Gorilla Glass Victus protection.

Although both devices have an under-display fingerprint scanner, the S21 has a more premium ultrasonic scanner. By contrast, the S21 FE does so with a traditional (and cheaper) optical fingerprint scanner. In real life use, there won’t be much of a difference between the two, but the ultrasonic scanner is likely to be better.

The two devices are equal when it comes to durability, and the polycarbonate back panel should help better survivability in the event of nasty drops. As well as sharing Corning’s same degree of scratch and shatter resistance, both phones are also IP68 rated for protection against dust and water ingress.

Although the Galaxy S21 FE almost matches the S21 in most of its design aspects, some subtle elements give the S21 an edge. These include a more premium look and objectively better under-display fingerprint scanner technology. It’s such a small difference that we’ll assign a tie for now.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life and charging

Front and back view of the Samsung Galaxy S21.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S21 FE and S21 are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, which is among the most powerful mobile SoCs currently available for Android phones. This translates to excellent performance across the board, and both devices can handle even the most resource-hungry apps without breaking a sweat.

For the extra $100 you pay for the base variant of the Galaxy S21, you get slightly more RAM than the S21 FE, which only has 6GB of RAM. While this should mean a slight performance advantage for the S21, it may not necessarily be noticeable in everyday use.

Being the physically larger phone, the S21 FE has a 4,500mAh battery compared to the 4,000mAh cell in the S21. This will almost certainly translate to better battery life for the S21 FE, given that both phones will be running nearly identical software versions.

Unlike the 2020 S20 FE, the S21 FE doesn’t ship with a charger in the box and you’ll need to purchase one separately if you don’t have a Samsung fast charger with you. This is also the case with the Galaxy S20.

Both phones support the same charging speeds: 25W wired fast charging and 15W wireless fast charging. The S21’s smaller battery should, on paper, take less time to go from zero to 100 percent.

Thanks to the nearly identical hardware on both phones, it’s hard to pick a clear winner for this section. The S21 FE is likely to have a better performing battery, but until we test it, we won’t know for sure. We’re calling this a draw for now.

Winner: Tie


Two Samsung Galaxy s21 in pink and blue, one on top of another on a gray surface.

Although the rear camera setup on the Galaxy S21 FE and S21 looks somewhat similar, there are subtle differences in the hardware specifications of the telephoto and ultrawide lenses on these devices.

The only instance where both phones use identical camera hardware is the 12MP main sensor, which is the same across both devices and offers dual-pixel autofocus and optical image stabilization (OIS) support.

The S21 FE’s telephoto camera uses an 8 MP sensor coupled to an f/2.4 lens, supporting 3x optical zoom with OIS. By contrast, the Galaxy S21’s telephoto camera uses a higher-resolution 64MP sensor, which is also physically larger than the one in the S21 FE.

However, the optical zoom figure on the S21 (1.1x) is lower than the S21 FE. This means that if you tend to take a lot of zoomed photos, the S21 FE might be a better option. Note, however, that the S21 also offers the option to capture much larger and more detailed 64MP images that you can crop and zoom in on.

The third camera on both phones uses a 12MP sensor coupled with an ultrawide lens. Again, there are slight differences here, as the S21 has a slightly larger sensor and a narrower field of view (120 degrees) compared to the 123 degree field of view lens used on the Galaxy S21.

In terms of video recording, the Galaxy S21 offers 8K video recording at 24 FPS, while the S21 FE tops out at 4K at 60 FPS.

The Galaxy S21 FE’s 32 MP front camera wins the resolution battle compared to the S21’s 10 MP. However, what it gains in resolution it loses in terms of sensor size and lack of autofocus.

Technically, the S21’s larger sensor, along with autofocus support, should help you capture better selfies overall than the S21 FE. However, we will reserve judgment only after we review the Galaxy S21 FE in the coming days.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is almost as good as the Galaxy S21 in terms of camera hardware. In fact, in some areas like optical zoom (on the telephoto camera) and a wider ultrawide lens, some users may find it better than the S21.

Just keep in mind that there’s no getting around the fact that the Galaxy S21’s larger sensors in the telephoto, ultra-wide, and selfie cameras will allow you to unlock better overall performance.

So this round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S21, albeit by a slight margin. We will also re-evaluate these scores once we review the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

Software and updates

A person's hand holding the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE to take a photo of a pair of shoes.

If there’s one advantage the Galaxy S21 FE has gained due to its delayed launch, it’s the fact that it’s eligible for one more year of Android updates compared to the rest of its S21 clan.

Its 2022 launch with Android 12 and One UI 4.0 increases the probability that it will receive Android updates for the next four years, while the S21 will reach the end of its useful life in three years, since it is already a year old. As of now, both phones are running Android 12 with One UI 4.0.

Because both devices run the same versions of Android and OneUI, there isn’t much to differentiate between the two. However, we will have to award this point to the Galaxy S21 FE due to its likely longer lifespan.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Special features

Samsung Galaxy S21 standing upright on a green surface showing off its triple camera module.

Since the two phones in this comparison come from the same family of devices, they also share almost all of the unique features that people are used to seeing in Samsung devices.

These range from camera-centric features like Single Take and dual video recording (using the front and rear cameras simultaneously) to specialized features like support for Samsung DeX and Samsung Pay. Needless to say, there is no clear winner for this round.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The price of these two phones is where things get interesting. At the time of writing, the Galaxy S21 FE is the cheaper of the two devices with the base variant (6 and 128 GB) priced at $699. The top-end 8GB and 256GB variant of the S21 FE will set you back $769. Color options offered include white, graphite, olive, and lavender.

The base version (8 and 128 GB) of the Galaxy S21 costs $799 USD, and the 8 and 256 GB variant costs $849 USD. The S21 came in gray, white, purple, and pink color options at launch. At this time, however, only the gray color option seems to be available.

Now that the Galaxy S21 is almost a year old, there have been instances where its prices have dropped to S21 FE levels (during sales and discount deals), making it a very attractive option.

Also, with the Galaxy S22 lineup just around the corner, the Galaxy S21 is facing an imminent price cut. Therefore, it would be a good idea to compare the prices of the S21 right before you hit the “Buy” button next to the Galaxy S21 FE.

Overall Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

There’s no getting around the fact that the Galaxy S21 FE is the lowest ranked phone in the S21 hierarchy. Its current entry price of $699 is a bit too close to that of the S21. Unless the S21 FE prices between $500 and $600, it would be hard for us to recommend it over the S21.

However, if you want an S21-series phone with a big screen and battery capacity, but don’t want to spend more than $999 on the S21 Plus, the S21 FE is a great option.

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