Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G first impressions: ride the wave

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The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S20 FE 5G have been huge hits for the company, with Samsung reportedly having sold over 10 million units worldwide to date. Of course, Samsung wants to keep riding this wave, and what could be nicer than following them with a new version.

Samsung just launched the Galaxy S21 FE 5G in India, a highly anticipated smartphone that follows the same formula as before – with flagship-level specs and features similar to the premium S21 series, but for a long time after their introduction and without the premium price. Samsung sent us a device for review, and while that continues, here’s what to expect from Samsung’s newest flagship that is great value for money.

The premium experience starts with the packaging, a minimalist, sleek box just like this phone’s sibling. Inside, you’ll find the phone, a USB Type-C to Type-C cable, and a SIM eject tool. In modern flagship fashion, there is no power supply in the box, as was the case with last year’s FE models.

Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G doesn’t change the game much, mostly because the previous phone was already crammed with features. Instead, we get some evolutionary changes like the design and SoC.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a contour cut design for the camera module, just like the Galaxy S21 series, but this part is made of plastic instead of metal and is not an extension of the frame. The back is also made of plastic, but the display has Gorilla Glass Victus for better scratch protection. The metal frame feels sturdy, the power and volume buttons are on the right, the USB port and the dual SIM compartment at the bottom. There is no headphone jack.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has a fingerprint sensor in the display

The S21 FE 5G is quite slim at 7.9 mm and at 177 g it is definitely lighter than the 190 g of the Galaxy S20 FE 5G. The graphite color unit I have makes the design look a bit bland, but luckily there are also lighter shades of color like olive, lavender, and white. The phone comes in two storage options, 128GB and 256GB, with the same 8GB of RAM in both. That said, the SIM tray isn’t the hybrid type we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE 5G, so you won’t be able to expand the internal storage.

On the front we have a large and bright 6.4-inch AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The display is flat on all sides and also has relatively narrow bezels. In the cutout there is a 32-megapixel selfie camera and an optical fingerprint sensor in the display. The display looks great in the short amount of time I have been using it with good colors and sharpness. The fingerprint sensor also works well and the high refresh rate makes it quick to use.

The next big change is the SoC. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has an Exynos 2100, the same chip found in Samsung’s flagship S21 series. We were hoping to see the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC in the version of this phone sold in India as this is included in some of the global variants and in particular as the Galaxy S20 FE 5G is based on the Snapdragon 865 SoC. Nevertheless, the Exynos 2100 is still a flagship SoC and we will put it through its paces in an extensive test.

On the software side, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is delivered with OneUI 4 based on Android 12. The new version has small tweaks to the user interface and menus, but overall it looks and feels familiar.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe 5G First Impressions Bundle Gadgets360 ww

The barebones bundle of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G illustrates the modern flagship unboxing experience

Many features from the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G are transferred to the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. There’s an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, stereo speakers, Samsung Pay with NFC, and Wireless Dex mode. It even has the same 4,500mAh battery capacity, with 25W fast wired charging, 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging.

It is similar with the cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G has three rear cameras with the same resolutions as the Galaxy S20 FE 5G. These are a 12-megapixel primary, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. There’s still a lot to test, but so far the cameras seem pretty competent.

At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G doesn’t feel like a big step up from its predecessor, and from what I can tell so far, the only big changes seem to be the design and SoC. The removal of support for microSD cards is also a little disappointing. Official prices for the Galaxy S21 FE 5G are Rs. 54,999 for the 128GB variant and Rs. 58,999 if you want 256GB of storage, but Samsung has announced a limited time cashback offer that is Rs. 5,000 off this one Prices if you use HDFC bank cards, which makes calling a little more attractive. But how does the Galaxy S21 FE 5G compare to its competitors, with the largest being the Galaxy S20 FE 5G? We’ll answer these and many other questions in our detailed review, so stay tuned.

Check out the latest from the Consumer Electronics Show on Gadgets 360 in our CES 2022 hub.

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