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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Is the new phone a big upgrade?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has just landed — but how does it stack up compared to the Galaxy S21? Here is how the two devices compare to each other directly, so you can make your decision.

The recently-released Galaxy S21 FE is the latest addition to Samsung’s S21 range, and so it’s only natural to wonder whether it lives up to the reputation set by its forerunners. In this article, we’ll compare its specs to the standard Galaxy S21, to see if it really is the “Fan Edition” of this range.

Camera

The Galaxy S21 offers a triple rear camera sensor, including a 12-megapixel wide angle camera, a 64-megapixel telephoto sensor, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens. In our review, we found that while it wasn’t the very best camera phone around, it certainly did offer versatility, reliability, and impressively vivid colours.

Samsung Galaxy S21
Samsung Galaxy S21 camera module

The FE version has a similar module – in fact, it seems that the wide and ultrawide sensors are identical. Where it differs is in the telephoto lens, which clocks in at just 8-megapixels. You’ll have to wait for our upcoming review to see how it performs, but it’s likely that this has been a cost-cutting downgrade.

Screen

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a particularly good display, to be precise a 6.2-inch OLED with an adaptive refresh rate that could go up to 120Hz and a Full HD+ resolution. It’s bright, detailed, and smooth, making it one of the best screens you can get (despite the downgrade from the WQHD+ resolution of the Galaxy S20).

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE front and screen
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE display

Fortunately, the Galaxy S21 FE manages to retain most of these features, and it’s even a bit larger, going from 6.2-inches to 6.4-inches. However, while it’s still got a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, it seems that it is not adaptive in the same way so you’ll have to switch in on via the settings.

Performance

On the score of performance, it seems as though there’s little to choose from between the two devices. While the Galaxy S20 runs on an Exynos 2100 in Europe or a Snapdragon 888 chipset in the United States, while according to the official source the FE is “equipped with Galaxy’s latest, super-fast application processor – the same experience used in the S21 series.”

This is good news, because we were very impressed with the Galaxy S21’s performance. It’s super fast when running everyday tasks, steps up to the plate for great gaming performance, and ably supports the camera system even at its most demanding.

Battery Life

When it comes to the battery, you’re likely to notice a boost if you pick the Galaxy S21 FE; the newer device offers a 4500mAh cell, while the original model only packs 4000mAh.

Through our regular usage of the Galaxy S21, we found that it could make it through the day on a single charge, which translated to between five to six hours of screen-on time. If the Galaxy S21 FE does perform better in this area it will be a welcome change.

However, when it comes to charging back up again it is unlikely that you’ll see a big difference; both handsets support 25W wired charging and 15W wireless charging, which is not particularly speedy.

Price

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE has been announced with a starting price of £699 (for the 128GB storage variant), which rises to £749 if you opt for 256GB of storage.

The Galaxy S21 had a base launch price of £769 — however, things have changed since its launch almost exactly one year ago, and you can find it for sale online for £699 as well. At this point in time, price is not a significant differential between the two.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S21: Early Verdict

We’ve not yet been able to put the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE through its paces in a full review, so it’s too early to say for sure which one is the better choice of smartphone. However, the crucial choice seems to come down the battery performance versus the camera performance; if the former is your priority then the Galaxy S21 FE might be the best bet, while if the latter is the key credential for you then the Galaxy S21 may be the one for you.

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