Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Exynos) First Impressions: iPhone who?

    The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G at its starting price of 54,999 takes on the Apple iPhone 12 and several last-gen flagships.
    By AMRITANSHU MUKHERJEE
    | Updated on Jan 10 2022, 09:52 PM IST
    At  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>49,999, you get the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE base variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.
    At 49,999, you get the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE base variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    At  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>49,999, you get the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE base variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.
    At 49,999, you get the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE base variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    The most leaked Samsung phone of 2021 has finally arrived on the shelves in early 2022! In fact, despite being new, the Galaxy S21 FE imparts a sense of déjà vu, given the countless renders we got subjected to. However, that could also be due to the fact that the Galaxy S21 FE largely resembles the Galaxy S21, with only a few bits on it suggesting that you got the cheaper model, Mister/Madam.

    Samsung India goes for a clever introductory pricing with the Galaxy S21 FE. At 54,999, you get the base variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, while the higher-spec variant with 256GB variant costs 58,999. HDFC Bank customers can waive 5,000 off, thereby bringing the current price to 49,999. Us being Indians, we are getting the Exynos 2100 version here like the majority of the globe. Unlike the S20 FE, Samsung has limited the colour palette to four rather mundane colours.

    This, however, is bred to be the iPhone 12 rival in 2022 and after getting it to know it for the past few days, that notion only strengthens up.

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Design and Build

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    The Galaxy S21 FE belongs to the S21 family and hence, it carries on the same design as the galaxy S21. I was a fan of that unique camera hump treatment along with the dual-tone colour finish but Samsung paints the entirety of the phone in the same pastel shade, like we saw on the Galaxy A52. It doesn’t look as special as the regular Galaxy S21 but that’s the idea behind this phone: you are buying the cut-price S21 and you ought to feel like it.

    Nonetheless, in the Olive green shade that I have, it looks pretty. Being a Samsung phone, the fit and finish is top-notch. Every element on the metal frame looks exquisite and despite the rear being all plastic, it feels as if it is built to last. It certainly looks more pleasing than the Galaxy S20 FE could, even at its launch.

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    The surprising bit, however is the front. Unlike the Galaxy S20 FE, Samsung gives us a top-notch display that pushes the bezels to the utmost corners. Except for slightly bloated chin, the rest of the bezels are unbelievably slim. No curved-edge display here but you get an optical in-display fingerprint sensor that works as advertised. 

    The 6.4-inch display makes the phone more manageable than the humongous 6.7-inch phones at this price. Helping it is the 177 grams weight to make it handy. And despite this being a cheaper Galaxy S21, the FE gets IP68 water and dust resistance (only the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 get it at this price).

    Galaxy S21 FE 5G specs at a glance

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    It has only been a few days with the Galaxy S21 FE and so far, we are yet to put it through its paces. But this time was enough to make us figure the display being one of the best in this class. You cannot find faults with a Samsung display and on the Galaxy S21 FE, all the 6.4-inches of the Dynamic AMOLED canvas rendering at FHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate is an eye candy. More on this in our full review.

    Obviously, Samsung bringing the Exynos 2100 chip would be a sour point for many, given that the Snapdragon variant of the S20 FE was such a hit with the Indian public. The Exynos 2100, however, is as fast as the Snapdragon 888 and on the Galaxy S21, it did not show signs of struggle. And so far on the Galaxy S21 FE, I haven’t observed the phone handling demanding social media apps and games. Moreover, with One UI 4.0 based on Android 12, the entire software experience feels sublime. One UI 4 is easily my favourite Android 12 experience so far.

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    The Exynos chips’ main concern has always been the battery life and that’s something we need to observe over the next few days. With 4500mAh battery, we expect the Galaxy S21 FE to consistently return a full day of stamina. In the 3 days so far, the S21 FE is edging close to that 1-day figure with moderate use.

    The cameras are largely borrowed from the Galaxy S21 series, except for the telephoto camera. At 50,000, the Galaxy S21 FE is the only phone I can recall offering a 3X telephoto zoom (not even the iPhone 12 offers it). This is an 8MP sensor and so far, the results are comparable with the 8MP 3X camera on the S20 FE. Including the other two cameras, I can say that most of you will like the Galaxy S21 FE’s camera system to be better than an iPhone 12, or even an iPhone 13.

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    Lastly, Samsung offers support or up to 25W fast charging along with 15W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. There’s no charger in the box though and you will need to shell an additional 1,299 for Samsung’s 25W adapter. You, however, get the USB-C to USB-C cable in the box.

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Early Impressions

    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
    Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

    Not many smartphones feel as feature-packed and exciting a package the Galaxy S21 FE is at 50,000 in India right now. Samsung seems to have nailed the basics with the S21 FE, offering a very nice display, a solid build quality, and some seemingly impressive cameras that makes the iPhone 12’s cameras look just bad in comparison!

    Obviously, it remains to be seen how the Exynos 2100 behaves on the long run and how efficient is it at sipping the battery. We will have answers to these ready in our full review, hence keep an eye out.

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    First Published Date: 10 Jan, 03:16 PM IST
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