Samsung's first smartphone to be launched in 2022, the Galaxy S21 FE poses as an alternative to the Galaxy S21, at a slightly lower price. It succeeds one of the brand's recent successes, the Galaxy S20 FE, but on a more problematic timeline.
The Galaxy S22 series will likely be launched before the end of winter 2021/22. Just a few weeks before their announcement, Samsung is releasing a Galaxy S21 FE, whose release, initially expected in the fall of 2021, had to be pushed back despite the brand.
The smartphone, like the Galaxy S21 FE dating from October 2020, is intended to be a slightly more accessible variation of the Galaxy S21. Its technical specifications have changed little, except that it includes a Qualcomm SoC (the Snapdragon 888), a slightly larger battery and a slightly modified camera block. Its all-plastic design is of course one of the most visible compromises. However, it's not certain that the Galaxy S21 FE will pale in comparison to the Galaxy 21...
Ergonomics and design
The Galaxy S20 FE was similar to the Galaxy S20, except that it adopted a plastic shell, and this is still the case if we compare the S21 FE and S21. The smartphone we are interested in here has a size of 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm and weighs 177 g. This is hardly more than the Galaxy S21 (169 g) which has a smaller screen (6.2 inches against 6.4 for the S21 FE). The choice of plastic for its back cover weighs down the balance, and that's good.
Let's add that it has the merit of being matte, although it catches fingerprints on its "graphite" version, and of good quality. It is also this plastic that covers the back photo block of the device, replacing the metal of the S21. The one-piece integration is successful in terms of aesthetics, difficult to find much to complain about.
The smartphone is overall a big guy that does not slip in the hand and is quite solid. Its screen is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus - the highest standard to date - and its case is IP68 certified, which guarantees its resistance to water and dust. Its fingerprint reader is hidden under its screen and its side buttons are properly accessible, even to our small hands. On the other hand, Samsung no longer offers a microSD port, which the S20 FE had, nor a 3.5 mm jack, which was also missing on its predecessor. We will console ourselves by noting that this S21 FE can accommodate two nano-SIM cards.
The Galaxy S21 FE is not a compact smartphone. The 6.4-inch screen is a little smaller than the 6.5-inch screen of the S20 FE, but far from the 6.2-inch screen of the Galaxy S21. In any case, this panel shares some of its characteristics with the Galaxy S21 since it is also an Amoled Full HD+ screen (1080 x 2400 px, 411 dpi) protected by a Gorilla Glass Victus and equipped with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Alas, it does not offer an adaptive refresh: understand that you have the choice between a display fixed at 120 Hz (and used by default) and 60 Hz, without step or variation between the two. The impression of fluidity is there, but at the same time it makes you fear an overconsumption of energy not really justified.
These considerations aside, Amoled always succeeds to Samsung. The South Korean company offers a flat panel with a central punch, whose maximum brightness of 864 cd/m² is equivalent to that of the S21. It gives it a good readability, which a reflectance limited to 44.9% does not dull too much. Its contrast, almost infinite thanks to the Amoled technology, does not spoil anything. Note that at night, this bright screen will not burn your retinas because it is capable of emitting only 1.8 cd / m². The comfort of use is also increased by a zero remanence and a touch delay of 70 ms.
If there is nevertheless a strong point of this screen, it is well its colorimetry. But not out of the box! Because to better flatter the eye, Samsung prefers to offer a "vivid" display mode resulting in saturated colors - the delta E is then established at 4.7 - and a color temperature a little cool. However, it is enough to opt for the "natural" display, which bears its name well: with 6656 K, the color temperature is almost at the level of the reference standard (6500 K) and the delta E, testifying to color drifts, remains limited to 2. This is very slightly better than the Galaxy S20 FE and similar to the S21.
The Snapdragon 865 of the Galaxy S20 FE gives way to the Snapdragon 888 in the Galaxy S21 FE, which accompanies it with 6 to 8 GB of RAM. For our part, we tested the 6GB version of the smartphone, which delivered good performance, slightly better than the S20 FE.
Owners of a Galaxy S20 FE will not be surprised by the equipment of the Galaxy S21 FE which, on paper, is identical. In terms of results, for the modules it shares with the S21, Samsung's latest offering is very comparable to its older sibling.
Main module: 12MP, 26mm eq, f/1.8
It is difficult to verify if the Galaxy S21 FE is equipped with the same sensor as the S21, but it is clear that the quality of the shots varies little between the two smartphones, at least in the center of the image. The sharpness is equivalent or almost, although we notice micro-contrast a little more accentuated on the Fan Edition, especially on the mapping element. The scene is slightly bluer. Note that on the periphery of our scene, the smartphone concedes a little blur. But overall, the quality is there.
At night, the treatments operated by the two smartphones differ more. The S21 FE still gives priority to contrast, allowing to distinguish more details. The digital noise is a little less present, but at the cost of a colorimetry a little less accurate. The colors, especially on the color balls of our test pattern, lose intensity ... but a little less than with the Galaxy S20 FE.
Ultra-wide angle module: 12MP, 13mm eq., f/2.2
Like the Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S21, the S21 FE offers an ultra-wide-angle module built around a 12-megapixel sensor. With a few exposure-related details, the results offered by the smartphone are very comparable to those provided by the Galaxy S21, at least during the day.
At nightfall, the maps are reshuffled. The noise particularly present on the image makes its elements not very readable for the most part. Despite an attempt at a slightly brighter exposure, the colors are desaturated.
Telephoto module: 8 MP, 76 mm eq., f/2.4
The third module of the Galaxy S21 FE can hardly be compared to the one of the Galaxy S21, which relies on a 64MP sensor and offers a 3x hybrid zoom. With its 8MP sensor and 76mm equivalent lens, like the S20 FE, the device is the heir of the 2020 smartphone.
During the day, it is clear that the results are almost identical. With the exception of a slightly bluer scene with the S21 FE, the level of detail is identical. The smoothing is contained, given the 3x magnification applied to the scene.
The Galaxy S21 FE behaves the same way at night. The overall rendering is a bit rosier, but the level of details - in drastic drop - is identical. The same desaturation of the colored test patterns and the difficulty to render some elements can be noticed: the low accent of "library" becomes a high accent on the S21 FE and S20 FE shots.
Front module and video
Like the Galaxy S20 FE, but unlike the Galaxy S21 "just" with a 10MP sensor, the S21 FE is equipped with a 32MP sensor on the front with a wide-angle f/2.2 lens. Nothing very surprising then, the smartphone allowing to make shots with natural tones, but suffering from an often visible smoothing. It is possible to adjust the intensity of the blur associated with its portrait mode, sometimes struggling with the least smooth hair. In the video department, Samsung still offers the possibility of filming up to 4K at 60 fps on the back as well as the front.
The Galaxy S21 FE keeps the 4500 mAh battery of the S20 FE. This retained capacity, which has the luxury of being slightly higher than that of the Galaxy S21 (4000 mAh), is not enough, however. Tested with its standard configuration, i.e. with a screen refresh rate of 120 Hz and with brightness set at 200 cd/m², the smartphone was content to provide 13 h 3 min of autonomy. A disappointment when its predecessor flirted with 20 hours. However, let's concede that by setting its refresh rate to 60 Hz, the smartphone does not really do better.
The smartphone charges in about 1 hr 10 min, which is a very decent time considering its compatibility with 25W charging. Unlike the S20 FE, however, the S21 FE comes without a charging pad. But since Samsung has not upgraded its performance in this area, it is likely that its customers will already be equipped with one.
Our sustainability score allows us to determine the sustainability of the smartphone for both the consumer and the environment. It is based on the repairability index, durability criteria (protection index, standard connectors, warranty period and updates...) and an evaluation of CSR policies (Corporate Social Responsibility).
Well equipped in all respects, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is a well-made smartphone overall. It benefits from a successful Amoled screen, high-end performance and a back camera block that takes very good pictures. However, its autonomy is disappointing, especially when compared to the Galaxy S20 FE. Nevertheless, its main difficulty is its delicate positioning: very close to the Galaxy S21 in terms of performance, it is however more expensive than its elder brother, which is now very frequently on sale, and above all, it is launched a few steps away from a Galaxy S22 that is probably much better equipped...