Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Review : Only Fans Here

Updated: Feb 9

If you're a major fan of Samsung, then you'd most likely heard of the FE versions they've been making, specifically for their S line flagships. With the first Fan Edition catered to the S20 in 2020 but now with the S21 but in 2022??, there's some clear indications as to why this phone deserves the hype, or maybe could it be too late when the new S22 is about to be announced just around the corner?

I'd say Samsung played it really smart when it came to releasing the S20 FE a couple of years ago, changing the landscape for most flagships, WHILE keeping most of the best internals and cutting cost so they could to have it appeal to more users when it was released and now with the S21 FE, it doesn't come off short either.


I like the way it feels in the hand with it's flat edged display and weighs relatively light at just 177grams. While it does feel cheap at first glance with it's plastic back, the graphite colour we have here manages pretty decently for fingerprints but still leaves some smudges, (but who doesn’t use a phone right? I know raw looks good but always use protection for your phone) so you might want to consider a phone cover or skin despite how good it actually feels in the hand without one. Noticeably the side rails don't blend with the camera bump on the back like how it does in the original S21, so from a design cut back they had to do with this phone, I'll give Samsung a commendable attempt for cutting cost where they can.


The AMOLED 2X HDR10+ display is notably one of the best in its class as most Samsung displays are, reaching up to 1300 peak brightness and 120Hz refresh rate to suit the buttery smooth One UI 4 in this model. It almost makes it feel as if my S9+ is in desperate need of an upgrade, scrolling through Instagram or Youtube just feels so fluid and anything less than 120Hz now just feels slow. But if you're in constant worry of it eating up your battery life, there is the option to switch to 60Hz but bear in mind that it's not going to feel as special of a phone if you choose to do so.


I did wish for it to come with an adaptive option to solve this 21st century dilemma of mine, but sadly there isn't one. Probably something Samsung might be reserving for the S22 lineup coming real soon. The overall design just feels oddly satisfying to look at with very thin bezels and a tiny hole punch for its front facing camera, it gets really hard to explain why I like it so much


But let's not forget, all of what I'm saying here won't matter if it doesn't secure my important "details". While the under-display optical fingerprint reader does a great job at keeping my secrets secure, it's a notable step down from the original S21 that came with an ultrasonic sensor, which is known to be faster and more secure. So a small tradeoff here in this Fan Edition but not much of a dealbreaker for me.


Consuming content on the S21 FE with it's bright display and decently loud Dual Speakers, which in realistic terms is basically firing from the earpiece and another speaker on the bottom, sounds immersive with Dolby Atmos but its yet another cut back by Samsung to some regard with the original S21 being tuned by AKG. But to the untrained ear, you might not even tell the difference.


Cameras on the other hand, comes really close with the original S21 consisting of a 12MP main camera, an 8MP telephoto camera, and a 12MP ultra-wide.


Images are undoubtedly very Samsung-like with very well balanced colours, sharp and detailed in most evenly lit settings, and remains considerably consistent throughout all the different focal lengths. Although the major step down from the 64MP telephoto camera in the original S21 which might be something you use often, the 8MP telephoto camera in the S21 FE is obviously the weakest link when compared to the 12MP main camera.

So if capturing images from further away is your thing, you might want to look elsewhere with a better telephoto camera.


Something of a neat tool within the camera settings I noticed is Shot Suggestions. When you have this enabled, there will be a small bubble in the viewfinder that will then suggest the correct spot where you should aim the camera to, and simply align the shot to said bubble and it will ultimately give you the best result of framing a photo. I believe this works to find the sweet spot of an image that is perfectly balanced between highlights and shadows. Kinda neat for beginners who want to dive deeper into phone photography who are still learning in framing subjects, filling in negative spaces or even managing exposure levels.


But if taking videos is more of your cup of tea, image quality is surely up there with most flagships being able to capture up to 4K60p and up to 960fps at 1080p. Exposure compensation is slightly noticeable when transitioning from dark to brighter areas and doesn't have that finesse in the likes of an iPhone 13 or 13 Pro. But I'm more than happy to see the progress Samsung's made with it's image quality keeping most skin tones intact and not so much an over-saturated look they used to be known for. Stabilisation as well gets top marks for eliminating most footsteps and jitter you'd get when using handheld. There is also the option to enable Super Steady, but you'll only be able to record up to 1080p30fps and quite a crop-in if you have it turned on.


Image processing and all of the animations combined feels as good as it does due its 8GB RAM and running on a Snapdragon 888, Adreno 660 chipset. Our Geekbench scores surprisingly does better than the original S21 and even the S21 Ultra 5G, recording 1052 for Single-Core test and 3237 for Multi-Core test. So you clearly get more performance in this phone and it really shows in the way you interact with the UI and overall smoothness when switching between apps, gaming or the fact in how videos and images have great outputs, to which also helped in battery life consumption.


I managed to get around almost a full 2 days worth of use with its 4500mAh battery. Recording 4K footage, constantly taking photos, and even some light gaming. The 25W fast charger didn't come with the box however, following a more sustainable theme which should get you to 50% in 30 minutes.


The Samsung S21 FE starts at RM2,899 or S$978 and has options of 128GB and 256GB of storage.


In retrospect, whether you're a die hard Samsung fan or just someone looking to get the best flagship specs you can, the S21 FE holds a decent place for itself in the price range it sits in. It might not be as favourable as the S20 FE when it was launched and how that phone was considerably cheaper than the original S20, this S21 FE seems like it was released a little too late in my opinion.


Ushering in the new year of 2022 and possibly a new S22 coming out very soon, this leaves the S21 FE a little overshadowed. But if you're one to notice the best parts of everything that came with the original S21 minus some specs you might not realise to be missing, then this could easily be the phone for you. I for sure have fallen for its simplicity and as an understated performer compared to other flashy flagships like my S9+ once were, I can't help but to say, I am a fan.

 

Written by Fitri Aiyub







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