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Samsung's true value-for-money warrior came from one unexpected place last year, and was neither a member of the A-series, nor was it the previous year's flagship dropping down to a more palatable price.
Instead, it cut just the right corners to produce a phone - the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition - that is as powerful as its then-flagship, and even added some features its non-FE edition didn't have like true telephoto zoom camera. It only makes sense that Samsung will want to repeat this success but will it shave off the right options with the Galaxy S21 FE to face its Galaxy S21 inspiration with equal success?
Main Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 differences
Larger, 6.4" display vs 6.2" on the S21
Exclusive Green and Blue (S21 FE) vs Pink (S21) colors
Larger, 4500mAh battery on the Galaxy S21 FE
Faster, up to 45W charging on the S21 FE
True telephoto camera vs crop zoom (S21)
~$150 lower S21 FE price (for 6GB RAM version)
Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 price, colors, and storage
< Galaxy S21 FE colorsGalaxy S21 colors >
As a result of said corner-cutting in all the right places, the Galaxy S20 FE proved immensely popular and was our go-to budget handset we recommended to friends and family when they asked about the best bang for their phone buck. Could the Galaxy S21 FE achieve the same fame given that Samsung dropped the starting price of the Galaxy S21 compared to its S20 predecessor?
Well, it has to be even cheaper, and all rumors point to a lower base price for the Galaxy S21 FE than the S20 FE, which brings us to a sweet $649 or lower tag that has to entice plenty, given the Snapdragon 888 processor, true telephoto camera, and a selection of jolly colors to choose from in a Glasstic housing you won't have to baby.
As a reminder, the S20 FE blasted off at $799 but then again the S20 at $999 was way more expensive at launch than the $799 S21, too. In all likeliness, we can expect the Galaxy S21 FE to be at least $150 cheaper at launch than its Galaxy S21 namesake. Fan Edition indeed.
Moving on to the major advantage the Galaxy S21 FE would have over the Galaxy S21 - the true optical zoom camera - it's expected to stay and flaunt real 3x telephoto magnification compared to the crop zoom that Samsung uses courtesy of the larger 64MP sensor on the Galaxy S21. Score one for the FE, even though it's priced lower.
Other than that, except for the matching camera island color in the leaked renders, Galaxy S21 FE isn't supposed to feature many upgrades in the camera department just yet. We found the Galaxy S20 FE to produce excellent photos that matched or exceeded those of its more expensive siblings in the series, so no sweat.
Granted, the big 1.4 micron pixels of the 12MP ultrawide camera on the S21 will likely again beat the 1.1 micron ones of the Galaxy S21 FE's sensor there, yet the main 12MP camera would also again share great specs like whopping 1.8 micron pixel size and fairly wide lens aperture for pleasing camera samples.
Thus, despite the inevitable price difference, there is a negligible one in camera performance between the S20 and the S20 FE, and we expect nothing less for the S21 FE vs S21 camera rivalry. What the S21 FE may give up in the ultrawide camera prowess at night, it will certainly gain in the zoom camera department, too.
Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 specs and performance
Unlike last year when the S20 FE with the top memory and storage options was only accessible to folks in Europe and Asia, this year the top-shelf S21 FE with 8GB RAM is expected to be available to the US public as well.
A Galaxy S21 FE model with 8GB RAM popped up over in the Geekbench database under the Samsung SM-G990B model number that's said to be of the S21 FE. There is some logic in that speculation, as the S20 FE appears there as the SM-G780, and the Galaxy S20 is SM-G980, while the S21 is denoted as SM-G991, for instance, so the SM-G990 should be one to sit above the S20 but below the S21 in the totem pole, if Samsung wants to bring its model number ducks in a row.
The Geekbench listing for the alleged Galaxy S21 FE reiterates the specs from the previous SM-G990 model number appearance, namely the "lahaina" processor, which is none other than the current top Qualcomm flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 888.
As you can see, even the 6GB RAM SM-G990U model destined for the US handily beats both the Exynos 2100 and the Snapdragon 888 versions of the Galaxy S21 in pure benchmark scores, too.
Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 Exynos and Snapdragon models benchmark score
Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 displays and design
Here comes the fun part, the Galaxy S21 FE is actually smaller than its predecessor the S20 FE! Clocking in at 6.13 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches (155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm) it is much shorter than the S20 FE but still larger than the 5.97 x 2.80 x 0.31 inches (151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm) Galaxy S21, of course. What does that mean?
Well, the S21 FE has a slightly smaller, 6.4" display diagonal than the 6.5" panel of the S20FE and is also thinner thus more compact to use and carry around in your pocket. Not as manageable as the Galaxy S21, though, but then again that one has a smaller 6.2" screen, too. Both displays sport 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate technology so we can call it a draw in the screen department.
Samsung's Glasstic design is what both phones use to arrive at their sweet $649 and $799 launch price points and we don't mind as it still looks shiny and pretty, yet won't crack like a glass phone when you toss it around. Plus, it makes the phone lighter.
The notable difference between the two phone's designs is the matching colors of the camera island and the rear of the Galaxy S21 FE, whereas Samsung went with a two-tone rear design for the S21.
Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 battery and charging speeds
Another big Galaxy S21 FE advantage over the regular S21 is its battery capacity. The 4500mAh unit is much larger than the 4000mAh in the S21 which showed pretty weak endurance during our battery test to boot.
In our Galaxy S20 FE review even the 15W charger was able to pump the battery up to 100% from a depleted state in less than an hour and a half, and to 50% in 30 minutes, so we can imagine what these approved chargers for the phone listed below will be able to do when you run out of juice.
The S21 FE can be topped up by both the 25W and the top 45W Samsung chargers
These are actually the exact specifications of Samsung's 25W EP-TA800 charger that ships with the S21 series and the 45W EP-TA845 brick that you can buy separately, provided that your phone has the circuitry to take it. Well, the Galaxy S21 FE will be able to, and its 4500mAh battery will be full in less than an hour when you are in a hurry. In short, it will last longer and charge faster than the S21 which tops out at 25W, any takers?