Galaxy S23 FE vs Galaxy S21 FE: new main camera, same amazing display, and much faster processor!

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Galaxy S23 FE vs Galaxy S21 FE: upgrades to look forward to

Intro


Samsung's version of a "flagship killer" is its "Fan Edition" series, or "FE" for short. The company's latest entry in this mid-high price range is the Galaxy S23 FE, which comes the successor to the Galaxy S21 FE.

Now, you might be wondering why the last generation is not called the Galaxy S22 FE. Well, there are many speculations about the answer to that question, but it is still a mystery, and the truth is that there was probably more than just one reason. So, with a bit of a weird time gap between these two generations, in 2023 we got the Galaxy S23 FE.

In the S23 FE's menu of upgrades you get a brand new set of chips (Snapdragon or Exynos), upgraded main and selfie cameras, and a glass back panel replacing the plastic one from before. All of this left us a bit surprised, given the $100 lower launch price compared to that of the S21 FE. But enough chit-chat, let's get into it!

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Galaxy S23 FE vs Galaxy S21 FE:
  • Faster and more power-efficient chipset on S23 FE
  • New main and selfie cameras
  • Refreshed design matching flagship lineup
  • S23 FE is heavier
  • S23 FE comes with a glass back vs plastic on S21 FE
  • Bluetooth 5.3 vs 5.0
  • S23 FE has a better main camera and overall color reproduction

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

A small but visible refresh

The Galaxy S23 FE is larger than its predecessor in every dimension, and thanks to its new glass back panel it is also heavier. Check out the full size comparison below:

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Dimensions

6.22 x 3.01 x 0.32 inches

158 x 76.5 x 8.2 mm

Weight

7.37 oz (209 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Dimensions

6.13 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches

155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Dimensions

6.22 x 3.01 x 0.32 inches

158 x 76.5 x 8.2 mm

Weight

7.37 oz (209 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Dimensions

6.13 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches

155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

See the full Samsung Galaxy S23 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE size comparison or compare them to other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


Besides the transition from a plastic back to a glass one though, the rest of the phone is still built from the same materials, meaning a aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the display. As for protection against the elements, the S23 FE has the same IP68 water and dust resistance rating, which means the device can be submerged in fresh water to a maximum depth of 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes.

Display Differences


There are no display-related changes with the Galaxy S23 FE. That is to say, it adopts the same 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels, a screen refresh rate of 120Hz, and HDR support.

We can't really say we are disappointed here, as the Galaxy S21 FE already had a great display to begin with. Maybe the only improvement that we were hoping for was an increase in brightness, but that's unfortunately not something that Samsung felt necessary to upgrade.

As for the bezels, don't get your hopes up for thinner ones. With a slightly larger body and the display not getting any bigger, the bezels seem to be a bit thicker than the predecessor. This became even more obvious once we got to spend some time with the S23 FE.


Performance and Software

Future-proofing

The Galaxy S23 FE comes in two variants, one equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (for the US), and one with the Exynos 2200 (for the rest of the world). This is nothing new, as the company took the same approach with the S21 FE when it came out.

Compared to the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 chipsets that the Galaxy S21 FE variants came with, the silicon inside the S23 FE offers much higher levels of performance as well as power efficiency. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, for example, can also be found in popular phones such as the Galaxy S22 Ultra, OnePlus 10 Pro, Galaxy Z Fold 4, and more.

The S21 FE is still capable, but being two years old at this point it simply cannot match the S23 FE's chipset, as we noticed during some gaming sessions where we could bump the settings higher with the newer model and had an overall more fluid and seamless experience with it.

Performance Benchmarks:


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1566
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE1278
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE3839
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE3505
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE2208
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE1445
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1208
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE907

Samsung also completely ditched the 6GB RAM variant, so now even if you go for the most affordable version of the Galaxy Fan Edition you will get 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM!

When it comes to software updates it is a clear win for the Galaxy S23 FE. On top of being a newly released model, it also comes with one more year of software support compared to its predecessor. The Galaxy S21 FE will get to Android 15 while the S23 FE will reach Android 17.


Camera

The main focus of improvement

One of the main step-ups from the Galaxy S21 FE with the new S23 FE is its main 50MP camera, upgraded from the 12MP one on the predecessor. Samsung has not come out to specify this in any way, but judging by the specifications that the main camera comes with, there is a really good chance it is the same one as on the flagship Galaxy S23, which translates to a jump in image quality.

Then there are the other two cameras at the back, the ultra-wide and the 3X telephoto. Resolution-wise, both cameras appear to be unchanged from the S21 FE, and overall the results from the are the same when comparing the two phones. In fact, the S21 FE's ultra-wide camera seems sharper in comparison, but we suspect that this had something to do with our Galaxy S23 FE unit in particular.

At the front of the new generation we have a new 10MP selfie camera vs the 32MP one on the S21 FE. Now, obviously, the new selfie camera has less than a third of the megapixels in comparison, but that does not mean it is worse. In fact, it proves to be quite the upgrade.


HDR performance seems to be better when shooting with the main camera of the S23 FE. Additionally, unlike the colors from the S21 FE that are oversaturated and "in your face", the S23 FE produces more natural, true to life images that are arguably more pleasant to look at.

Besides some ever so slightly different colors, we found it difficult to distinguish how the S23 FE's main camera performed in low light when compared to the previous model.

Besides some small differences in color reproduction and the fact that the S23 FE smoothes out noise whereas the S21 FE doesn't, there isn't that big of a difference between the telephoto cameras on these phones.

Ultra-wide Camera




The ultra-wide camera on the Galaxy S23 FE produces more natural colors compared to the S21 FE. However, we noticed a drastic downgrade in quality compared to the predecessor, which, as we said earlier, suspect was a fault in our unit specifically. For some reason one of the images (the 3rd) came out extremely noisy and barely usable, but this was a single case and did not occur another time throughout the testing.

Selfies




The new 10MP selfie camera on the S23 FE performs noticeable better compared to the 32MP one on the S21 FE. This is true mostly as far as the detail that's captured in the photo, as you can clearly see looking at my skin in these photos. In contrast, the S21 FE makes me look like I have makeup on.

Video quality

Video Thumbnail

All of the pros and cons we noticed while taking photos are also present when shooting video. That said, there is also the added issue of haloing around objects such as trees, which is caused by the HDR of the Galaxy S23 FE. Hopefully Samsung releases an update that fixes this.

Audio Quality and Haptics


When we reviewed the Galaxy S21 FE last year we were pleasantly surprised to find out it was very close to the Galaxy S21 in terms of audio quality. Frankly, we didn't notice any improvement on this front, but that's not a bad thing given that the audio quality is already pretty nice.

Haptic feedback is also the same on both phones, which is to say tight, precise, and nice-feeling. Suffice it to say, whichever phone you go for between these two, you won't be disappointed by their 

Battery Life and Charging

Power efficiency at play

While the S23 FE's spec sheet shows the same 4,500mAh battery that the S21 FE has, but that doesn't mean it can't come out on top with its battery life. It turns out that the S23 FE has improved in this segment compared to its predecessor, especially when it comes to web browsing.

The only slight disappointment we noticed from our battery tests of the S23 FE and S21 FE is during the gaming benchmarks, but that is to be expected with a more powerful chipset inside the new model.

Charging-wise, nothing's changed, so the experience is basically the same, averaging around an hour and 15 minutes to charge the phone from 0-100% with a cable, and 2 hours via a wireless charger.

Specs Comparison


Here's a quick look at the Galaxy S23 FE vs Galaxy S21 FE specs.


There are two major differences here and those are the upgraded chipset options and the new camera hardware. These are the two main areas where the Galaxy S23 FE is visibly superior to its predecessor.

Summary


So, the S23 FE is shaping up like a nice overall upgrade to the series. It comes with an upgraded flagship-level chipset and more RAM, a more capable main camera, possible longer battery life, and nice new glass back panel to make it feel more premium. It is by no means something remarkable, but we have to remember that this is not a flagship phone we are talking about here. It sounds like a worthy successor to the Galaxy S21 FE.

What makes this package truly a better deal than the predecessor, however, is the new price that is now $100 lower, starting at $599 for the base model This surely saves the S23 FE a spot for the best mid-range phones in 2023. After all, the whole idea of the series is to show the fans some love by offering them an almost premium experience for a significantly lower cost.

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