First Impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G: A Perfect All-Rounder?
Samsung's annual fan service offering is more than just that.
It's finally here. The Galaxy S21 FE 5G, maybe the most leaked Samsung smartphone of all time, has had a roller-coaster ride from rumors of cancellation to ultimately debuting around the world. In fact, I'm delighted the S21 FE 5G was released because the sub-50k category lacked a real all-rounder with no obvious sacrifices, despite the fact that it doesn't specialize in any one area. I'll be trying the S21 FE 5G for a few more days before writing an in-depth review, but in the meantime, here are my initial thoughts on Samsung's annual fan service. —
Glasstic For The Win
With a flushed camera module that merges in with the frame and a glasstic design, the S21 FE 5G follows in the footsteps of the S21 series and looks quite similar to the vanilla Galaxy S21. Samsung is a proponent of this material, and I for one am not opposed to it. It helps keep design costs down while leaving no smudges or fingerprints on the body and providing the hands with a smooth matte feel.
Despite having a larger display, it's also more compact, yet thicker, than last year's Galaxy S20 FE 5G. That's because the bezels on this one are dangerously thin on all four sides, practically reaching the edges. As a result, the panel appears to be quite immersive. The large edges aid with grip, and it's simple to use one-handed.
Samsung didn't skimp on the critical details, though. It's one of the few smartphones in this price range with full IP68 water and dust resistance. There's no 3.5mm headphone port, but there are twin stereo speakers, and although weighing 177 grams, it seems lighter than its predecessor, thanks to the glasstic construction.
If you're coming from a glass-bodied smartphone, glasstic may seem unappealing at first, but trust me when I say that as you handle and use the Galaxy S21 FE 5G, the material will grow on you and the benefits of it will become clear.
Exynos 2100, Live With it
Users of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G will also have to deal with the Samsung Exynos 2100 SoC, despite the fact that a Snapdragon 888 variant is available outside of India. However, as we proved in our extensive SoC comparison between the Exynos 2100 and the Snapdragon 888 early last year, hearing Exynos' name should no longer be a disappointment. Since then, the Snapdragon 888's reputation has been marred by reports of overheating and inconsistent performance. I haven't noticed any heating on the S21 FE 5G so far, although it does become warm while installing apps during setup.
The most common gripes centre on the Exynos SoC's power efficiency, which, if the Galaxy S21 Ultra is any indication, has seen a significant improvement with the Exynos 2100. However, poor battery life was an issue with the S20 FE last year, and I'm currently driving the phone on a daily basis to see how long it lasts in various settings.
The flagship DNA of the Galaxy S2 FE 5G is in the correct place. It comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of storage, and it works on OneUI 4.0, which is based on Android 12. OneUI 4.0 introduces a slew of new customization options, including Android 12's extensive theme engine, which applies your wallpaper's colour palette to everything else on your phone, including accents, app icons, and more. Widgets have been revamped, and there are new animations and privacy settings, making the S21 FE 5G feel brand new.
That Gorgeous Display
But it was the S21 FE 5G's edge-to-edge display that wowed me the most. The panel is made from the same material as the flagship S21 series and is Gorilla Glass Victus protected. It has a 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, and it feels really immersive. The colour reproduction is incredible. Via my thorough review, I'll go into more depth about the display's performance, but on paper, it can reach 1200 nits of brightness, with the opportunity to finetune the colour temperature in the Settings App.
A punch-hole camera is center-aligned on the panel, and there's an in-display fingerprint sensor. The sensor is not at the most natural place on the display. It's further down towards the bottom, where it's more difficult to lay the thumb. However, it is fast enough to register a quick tap, so that's something.
The phone also has fantastic haptics. Every time you interact with the screen, whether it's using the navigation gesture, typing on the keypad, or selecting something on the screen, there's a faint but firm rumble.
The S21 FE 5G comes from the same family as the S21 Ultra, although the camera arrangement isn't quite as extravagant, for obvious reasons. It still boasts a triple camera stack, but instead of 108MP and 64MP sensors, it uses tried-and-true 12MP sensors for the primary and ultrawide cameras, with OIS stabilization, and an 8MP sensor for the telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and 80x digital zoom. OIS is also included in the zoom lens. Another 12MP camera is located on the front for selfies.
The camera system may feel a little too rudimentary for a smartphone priced at $50,000, especially when compared to the Vivo X70 Pro, Xiaomi 11X Pro 5G, and others. However, after using the camera for a few days, I'm very impressed with the results. Samsung has eschewed gimmicks in favor of a focus on colour science and detail extraction. The resulting images, some of which are reproduced below, are well suited for Instagram.
The camera offers a stabilization mode and a portrait video mode, and it can film at 4K 60FPS. There's even a Pro Video mode that allows you to manually adjust the shutter speed, ISO, and focus while recording. More testing is required, and I will be heading out as soon as the weather in Delhi NCR improves.
The Galaxy S21 FE 5G appears to be a well-rounded device that, while not focusing on any one feature, in particular, provides refinement all-around. Samsung has chosen features that are rarely found in this price range, such as an IP68 rating and a smudge-free back, which will help to maintain the device's durability, as well as quality-of-life enhancements such as small bezels, a compact and lightweight body, and that amazing display. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a lot of potentials. It will be available from January 11 on Amazon, Samsung's online shop, and various offline retail stores, with prices starting at Rs 49,999.