Galaxy S21 FE Hands-on: Last year’s flagship without frills

At CES 2022 today, Samsung finally revealed the Galaxy S21 FE (or “Fan Edition”). This is basically a modified version of last year’s S21 that the company is selling for $700 starting on January 11th. That’s $100 less than the regular S21, and for the price, this year’s model offers the same 5nm processors, the same 120Hz refresh rate (in a slightly larger screen) and a similar triple camera system. The S21 FE, though, has a bigger battery, and comes with Android 12. We’ll have a full review soon, but based on our brief hands-on practice with a test unit, the S21 FE appears to be a well-rounded device.

At first glance, the S21 FE was not as striking as last year’s flagship. While it has a similar notch in the upper left corner of its camera module, its case doesn’t have a glossy finish like the original S21. I prefer the previous style – this one is cute. But the S21 FE feels durable and its matte finish helps it resist fingerprints too

The S21 FE is also available in a different range of colors than the original: this time, you can choose from lavender, olive, silver or black (which is the color of my sample unit).

Sherlyn Low / Engadget

At 177 grams (or 6.2 ounces), the S21 FE is slightly heavier than the S21, which is reasonable given the newer model’s larger 6.4-inch screen. The screen is still Full HD+ and looks bright and sharp. But don’t expect S Pen support here like you get on the S21+ and Ultra. Like the S21, the Fan Edition does not support the Samsung stylus.

Aside from the size, the biggest difference between the S21 FE and the original model lies in the rear cameras. While both versions have a similar 12MP main camera with f/1.8 aperture, the FE’s ultra-wide lens has a slightly wider 123-degree field of view. Also, the FE’s telephoto camera uses an 8MP sensor while the S21’s has a resolution of 64MP, although both offer a 30x space zoom.

During my time with the S21 FE, I haven’t really subjected its cameras to rigorous testing nor have I yet noticed any major image quality issues. The pictures came out colorful and clear. Oddly enough, the FE’s front camera is 32 MP sharp while the original camera is only 10 MP. The selfies I’ve taken with her so far have been really sharp and the individual strands of my damaged hair are painfully visible.

Close-up of the triple camera system Samsung Galaxy S21 FE on the back..

Sherilyn Low / Engadget

These tweaks are similar to how the S20 FE differs from the S20. Samsung said it has sold 10 million units of the S20 FE in just over a year since the phone was launched in the fourth quarter of 2020, making this model one of the best-selling Galaxy smartphones of the past year.

Since this is just a short hands-on and not our full review, I can’t yet tell how the S21 FE will stack up against other phones in this price range. But it’s already facing stiff competition from the Pixel 6, which offers excellent cameras and software at the same cost, even though it has a polarizing design.

Although the combination of features for a relatively low price may make the S21 FE an attractive phone for many Samsung fans, the company picked a tough time to release this device. With next-generation flagships likely on the horizon, Galaxy shoppers may be tempted to wait and see what the company might bring at launch. even if you were death To actually buy a new Galaxy S series phone, at least wait until we can test the S21 FE more thoroughly before spending your money.

Follow the latest news from CES 2022 here!

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