The S21 FE may not have one killer feature that sets it apart but is a very thoughtfully put together package.

Galaxy S21 FE edition
Atom Smartphones Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 18:00

In many ways, Samsung’s FE (Fan Edition) series is a product for the times. The first FE device – the Galaxy S20 FE, showed up in 2020. At a time when usage patterns and travel scenarios had changed in a post-pandemic world, consumer priorities changed. The flagship challenger – a device that offers substantial savings over a pricey flagship phone yet delivers on the features that count, became more relevant. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is the chaebol’s first big launch for 2022 and arrives ahead of the 2022 flagships. 

Comparisons with the S21 and S21+ are inevitable. Design is an area where the S21 FE can hold its own against these devices from 2021. The instantly recognisable ‘contour cut’ rear cam assembly is the first thing that will catch your attention. We’re partial to the olive colour variant that we checked out. It’s finished in an elegant haze finish; it looks premium even though it’s a plastic back. The colour and finish are reminiscent of some of the premium Galaxy A series devices. In some sense, this device borrows the best design elements of the S21 series and the A series. It’s also a device that feels good in your hand – just 177 gm, despite a large 4500 mAh battery and a 6.4-inch display. 

Both the battery and the display are key purchase drivers for Indian consumers across price points. The battery comfortably lasted a whole day in our typical test scenario that included camera usage, 2-3 hours of calls and three hours of screen time. Last year’s S20 FE stood out among its rivals with a gorgeous 6.5-inch display. The S21 FE scores with a 120Hz refresh rate on its 6.4-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display; it’s not adaptive though. You have to manually toggle between a 60Hz or 120Hz option. Colours are vibrant; this is binge proof.

The S21 FE is powered by the same Exynos 2100 processor that is at the heart of the S21 trio. We tested the 8GB/128GB variant that notched up an impressive score 3178 (multi-core) on our Geekbench Benchmark test. Samsung is also offering two other hardware configurations - 6GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB, on this device. Aside from your need for speed, Samsung has also packed this with Android 12 and the latest iteration (One UI 4) of its own custom UI that is layered over Android.  

The rear cam did particularly well in two areas during our tests – portrait images and lowlight photography. You will notice a visible improvement over the S20 FE but the S21 and S21+ have a clear edge in zoom photography. This versatile shooter combines a 12MP wide angle cam (f/1.8) with a 12MP ultra-wide cam and an 8MP telephoto camera with 30x space zoom along with a 32MP selfie cam.

The flagship challenger category is quite cluttered with existing devices and upcoming launches. The S21 FE may not have one killer feature that sets it apart but is a very thoughtfully put together package. It looks every inch a flagship device and comes with flagship-type features like an IPS68 certification for dust and water resistance and Samsung's Wireless PowerShare feature for wirelessly charging other compatible devices. So, should you pay the extra premium and opt for a S21+ (that has seen a price drop) that also features a bigger screen or save about Rs 15-20K and opt for the FE. That might depend on your use case scenarios. 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G starts at an effective price of Rs 49,999 (including a Rs 5,000 cashback on HDFC cards) and is available in olive, lavender, white and graphite. 

Views expressed by the author are personal.

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