Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 2022 Worth it? [Review]
The Galaxy S21 FE has to live up to the standards set by Samsung's previous Fan Edition. But, while it's an impressive device, does it offer the tech needed for fans when even Samsung has dropped the prices for its top-of-the-line models—and that's ignoring other high-quality smartphones in the same range. Is the Fan Editions really what it's cracked up to be?
A month and a half later, Samsung released the Galaxy S22; I wonder why the S21 FE was released so late in the game. As a result, the Galaxy S21 FE not only invites comparisons to other Galaxy S21 models from a consumer standpoint but to a newer, more powerful Samsung phone that only costs $120 more than this allege more affordable take on a Samsung flagship.
The Galaxy S21 FE 2022 – At a Glance
- It costs $220 less than the Galaxy S22 and is more expensive than the Pixel 6 by $150.99. The Pixel 6 is $799.
- It features the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the Galaxy S21 for comparable performance.
- It offers a rear 12MP f/1.8 wide, 1.2-micron pixels, 1/1.31″ sensor and f/1.85 aperture12MP ultrawide camera, 1.25-micron pixels, 114-degree FOV and f/2.2.
- It delivers a selfie HI-RES 32MP, 1.22-micron pixels, f/2.2.
- It delivers a 120Hz refresh rate for the display.
- The 4,500 mAh battery is the same size as the Galaxy S20 FE.
- As with the Galaxy S21, battery life drains fast if you are at a 120Hz refresh rate.
- You get three colour options Lavender, graphite, white and olive.
Price and Availability
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is available at Samsung for CAD$949.99; This is for the 128GB model. Considering that its direct competitor, the Pixel 6, is CAD$799, I think the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 2022 is overpriced. Because Canadians, for the most part, buy their devices directly from Rogers, Bell, or Telus, the Galaxy S21 FE 2022 is $1174 over 24-months.
Considering that Samsung also released the Galaxy S22 just shy of 2-months for CAD$1169.99, which is $220 more than the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 2022, is this the best move for Samsung?
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 2022 – Sample Pictures
The Design & Performance
The S21 FE takes the look of its predecessors and makes a few subtle tweaks. The camera bump that we are familiar with retains the same easy-to-identify shape, but instead, it's plastic vs metal, which Samsung equates to being a budget device that features flagship qualities. As much as I enjoy the Galaxy S21 FE, I wonder if I should shell out or wait.
The S21 FE might be a budget flagship (is there even such a thing as a flagship that's budget?), but it offers one of the best displays we've ever seen by a longshot. It gets bright enough for use in any setting, is incredibly uniform without any spotty black/greys or weird colour tints at night, and the shadows aren't too bad in dim light.
The design is pleasing with thin bezels and colour options available to consumers; This makes the screen look bigger, while the bottom bezel is just a touch larger than on other phones. The automatic brightness adjustment works well; It is better at determining the right brightness level than most other phones. I wish it had more granular brightness settings at lower levels.
The fingerprint sensor under the display is optical, not ultrasonic like the Galaxy S22 Ultra or other higher-end phones, but it is still very reliable and fast. It has the potential to be less secure.
The Snapdragon 888 processor in the S21 FE is a powerful and well-documented chip that delivers seamless performance to support features like 4K video capture across all of the phone's cameras (60 fps on the primary wide-angle and front selfie cameras, 30 fps for the rest). Despite the 6 GB of RAM rather than the 8 GB standard on the S21, I noticed several times that the camera seemed slower to process photos taken in night mode. Now, this wasn't the only instance that I noticed slow processing with the camera; It's a minor thing, but when you use multiple smartphones, you tend to notice these subtle issues.
In terms of running applications, games, and going about your daily activities, the performance that you get from the S21 FE will be very similar to most of the smartphones on the market. The overall design of the Galaxy S21 FE doesn't make it stand out from the saturated market space; Where it excels is with the flagship components for the back camera, the selfie camera, battery life, and the display.
The Galaxy S21 FE's larger body (compared to the S21) offers room for a bigger battery, and the 4,500 mAh cell is said to offer an improvement in longevity. None of this is revolutionary or ground-breaking, but it's a nice bonus nonetheless.
On our battery review test, the S21 FE fared well, surviving 15 hours and 18 minutes. In everyday use, though, I often felt more like I was getting double that time out of a charge; With the S21 FE 4,500 mAh battery packed inside, and in practice, it often feels like it has an even bigger capacity.
In addition, like the standard model, the S21 FE does not come with a power adapter. So if you want to take advantage of the phone's wired charging capabilities, you will likely have to purchase a separate charging brick.
The Galaxy S21 FE has a stereo speaker setup via the earpiece and a down-firing unit on the bottom. The balance between the two is adequate—basic phone speaker setup: Muted bass, treble-heavy, and a little oomph at high volumes. Loud enough, though, for in the moment ambience music or to hear it ring from across the house.
Wrapping up the Galaxy S21 FE 2022
With the standard S21 models not readily available anymore, the S21 FE is no longer competing against its namesake. It's an uninspired replacement that's sadly long overdue. It's still a solid phone, but the Pixel 6 shoots better photos and has a more attractive, fun design. The Google Pixel 6 is $150 less than the Galaxy S21 FE. The Pixel 6 is simply the better buy unless you care about 5G internet speeds or having access to a telephoto camera.
Samsung should have released the Galaxy S21 FE in the second quarter of 2021. However, the company released its newest flagship, the Galaxy S22, just one month after. This move obscured the possibility that the S21 FE would be a highlight of Samsung's year.
To keep the Fan Edition series going, Samsung should release a remixed budget premium that lives up to the brand's name. Rather than a repackaged Galaxy S21 with a new paint job. Bring some features back into the line to create something that isn't on the market. Such as including MicroSD and a headphone jack. There's clear evidence that this is missing in a more budget-premium branch.