Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 Plus: Which phone to buy?

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 Plus: Which phone to buy?

While we’re expecting the Galaxy S22 to launch in the coming weeks, Samsung wants to keep the Galaxy S21 series alive with the Galaxy S21 FE. The Galaxy S21 FE is an affordable flagship that borrows most of its features from the standard Galaxy S21. It’s got the Snapdragon 888 chip, a triple camera setup, a 120Hz OLED display, and a similar design language. All for $100 cheaper than the Galaxy S21, and up to $300 lesser than the elder sibling Galaxy S21 Plus. If you’re in the market for a flagship phone from Samsung and are confused between the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S21 Plus, we’ll help you pick the better phone.

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The Galaxy S21 Plus has been around for a while now and is expected to be succeeded by the Galaxy S22 Plus which you can actually reserve right now via Samsung even before launch. The Galaxy S21 FE, on the other hand, is a newer device that was launched at the beginning of this year. Since both devices are made by Samsung, they share some similarities but also differ in a few ways. We’ll tell you whether those differences are worth spending extra for or not.

Galaxy S21 FE

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Specifications

Specification Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
CPU Snapdragon 888 (US/China)/Exynos 2100 (EU, UK, Asia) Snapdragon 888 (US/China)/Exynos 2100 (EU, UK, Asia)
Body
  • 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
  • 177 grams
  • 161.5×75.6×7.8 mm
  • Weight: 200g
Display
  • 6.4-inch FHD+ AMOLED
  • 1080 x 2340 pixels
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • Gorilla Glass Victus
  • 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED Display
  • 1080 x 2400 pixels
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • Gorilla Glass Victus
Camera
  • 12MP Primary, f/1.8 (OIS, PDAF)
  • 12MP Secondary, f/2.2, ultra-wide
  • 8MP Tertiary, f/2.4, telephoto
  • 32MP Front-facing, f/2.2
  • 12MP Primary, f/1.8 (OIS, PDAF)
  • 12MP Secondary f/2.2 ultra-wide
  • 64MP Tertiary f/2.0 3X hybrid zoom (OIS)
  • 12MP Front-facing, f/2.2
Memory
  • 6/8GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage
Battery
  • 4,500mAh
  • 25W fast charging
  • Qi wireless charging (15W)
  • Reverse wireless charging
  • 4,800mAh
  • 25W fast charging
  • Qi wireless charging (15W)
  • Reverse wireless charging
Connectivity
  • 5G: Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave
  • Ultra-Wide Band (UWB)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, QZSS
  • 5G: Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave
  • Ultra-Wide Band (UWB)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, QZSS
Water Resistance IP68 IP68
Sensors Fingerprint sensor (under-display), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, Compass Fingerprint sensor (under-display), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, Compass
OS Android 12 (One UI 4.0) Android 12 (One UI 4.0)
Colors Lavender, Olive, White, Graphite, Navy Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom Gold, Phantom Red
Material
  • Polycarbonate back
  • Metal frame
  • Glass back
  • Metal frame
Price Starts at $699 $899/$999 (New)/$599 (Renewed)

Design

Galaxy S21 FE design

While both phones may look similar since at the end of the day they’re made by the same brand, there are some differences in the design department. The Galaxy S21 FE is cheaper and hence gets slightly lesser premium materials. The back is made of polycarbonate on the Galaxy S21 FE while the Galaxy S21 Plus has a glass back. Now glass is more premium and also feels better to hold, but polycarbonate doesn’t shatter when dropped (but your screen is still glass and will shatter — so don’t drop either phone).

Both phones have a similar design for the camera module but then again, the metallic frame on the Galaxy S21 Plus is what extends onto the camera module as well. On the Galaxy S21 FE, the polycarbonate portion of the back is what extends onto the camera module and merges with the frame. Both phones have a metallic frame so you’re not going to have any issues with the build quality regardless of which phone you pick.

Galaxy S21 Plus design

Something that might come across as a big difference, quite literally, is in terms of the size of both phones. The Galaxy S21 FE has a 6.4-inch display so it’s relatively more compact compared to the Galaxy S21 Plus which has a 6.7-inch display. This completely boils down to personal preference. Some people prefer a compact phone that’s easy to use with one hand. Others prefer a larger phone because it’s more enjoyable to watch content on a big screen. Depending on your preferences, you can decide whether you want a smaller phone or a larger, plus-sized device.

Apart from that, both phones have an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. The color options available on both phones are quite different. The Galaxy S21 Plus has slightly classy colors while the S21 FE has more fun options. The Galaxy S21 Plus is clearly the more premium phone in terms of build and design but the Galaxy S21 FE isn’t too far behind. It majorly boils down to what size you prefer.

Display

Galaxy S21 FE display

When it comes to the display, the only difference between the two phones is the size and not the quality of the panel itself. Both the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S21 Plus have OLED displays with a Full HD+ resolution and refresh rate of 120Hz. Samsung makes some of the best displays on smartphones so there’s not a lot to tell the two apart in this department. The Galaxy S21 FE has a smaller 6.4-inch display while the Galaxy S21 Plus has a larger 6.7-inch display.

Like I mentioned in the design category, some people may prefer a smaller display because it’s easier to use with one hand while some may prefer a larger panel because everything from text to content looks bigger and better. It’s up to you to decide whether you really want that extra real estate on the Galaxy S21 Plus or if you’ll be happy with a slightly smaller display. Both displays are covered by Gorilla Glass Victus so there’s no compromise in the protection.

Galaxy S21 Plus display

The displays used on both devices are of top quality and you will enjoy watching content on them regardless of which device you pick. OLED panels are generally vibrant and display poppy colors with inky blacks resulting in a better contrast ratio. The extra real estate can be handy if you watch a lot of movies and shows on your phone or play a lot of games. You get an under-display fingerprint scanner on both phones.

Performance and Software

Galaxy S21 FE performance

Since both the Galaxy S21 Plus and the Galaxy S21 FE are flagship phones, they have top-of-the-line internals to power them. The Galaxy S21 Plus runs on the Snapdragon 888 in the US and China while the rest of the world gets Samsung’s in-house Exynos 2100 SoC. The story is exactly the same on the Galaxy S21 FE. The Snapdragon 888 is a powerful chipset that powered almost all flagship phones in 2021. It’s not the latest chip in 2022 but it’s still powerful enough to be called a flagship.

The Exynos 2100 SoC found on international variants of both devices isn’t as powerful as the Snapdragon 888, especially in terms of GPU performance. What this means is that if you play a lot of games on your smartphone, you would be better off getting a different phone that has a Snapdragon 888 chipset instead of the Exynos 2100. Apart from heavy and intensive games, everything else should run as smooth as butter on both phones. Unfortunately, unlike last year when some markets got the Snapdragon variant on the FE, all the markets that have gotten Exynos on the regular S series have gotten Exynos on the FE as well, so the phones remain tied for this generation.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus in the hand

Even the software on both phones is exactly the same. There’s Samsung’s One UI 4 based on Android 12 on both the Galaxy S21 FE as well as the Galaxy S21 Plus. Since both phones have the same hardware and software, there’s practically no difference in terms of performance. Samsung has promised three years of Android version updates and four years of security patches for both phones. However, the Galaxy S21 FE comes out of the box with Android 12 which means it’s going to get an extra year of updates compared to the Galaxy S21 Plus.

Cameras

Galaxy S21 FE cameras

Another department where there’s no clear winner. Both the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S21 Plus have a 12MP primary shooter accompanied by a 12MP ultra-wide camera. The only difference in the rear camera department comes in the form of a higher resolution 64MP telephoto camera on the Galaxy S21 Plus. The Galaxy S21 FE in comparison only has an 8MP telephoto camera. As a result, zoom shots are going to appear better when captured on the Galaxy S21 Plus. This is especially true when you capture far-off objects with 5-10X zoom.

As for the primary and ultra-wide cameras, the results are more or less similar. Both the Galaxy S21 FE and the S21 Plus click some great pictures thanks to flagship hardware and Samsung’s image processing. You will be happy with the camera performance on both devices. There’s nothing much to tell apart in this department either except for the telephoto lens. It’s quite simple. If you take a lot of zoom shots, pick the Galaxy S21 Plus.

Galaxy S21 Plus cameras

However, if you take a lot of selfies, the Galaxy S21 FE hits right back with its 32MP selfie camera. The front-facing shooter is better on the Galaxy S21 FE so if selfies are your priority, you know which one to opt for.

Battery Life and Charging

S21 FE

The Galaxy S21 FE has a 4,500mAh battery along with a 6.4-inch display. The Galaxy S21 Plus has a larger 4,800mAh battery but with a 6.7-inch display. As a result, there’s not a lot of difference in the duration for which both phones last. The Galaxy S21 Plus does have slightly better battery life but it’s not going to be very evident in day-to-day usage. Both phones also have the same charging speeds at 25W via the wired route and 15W via a Qi wireless charger.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21 Plus: Which one should you buy?

Galaxy S21 FE

If you’ve read till here, you’ve probably realized that there aren’t a lot of differences between the Galaxy S21 Plus and the Galaxy S21 FE. Apart from the display size and the better telephoto lens, both phones are identical in multiple aspects. So, it all boils down to whether you want a more compact phone or a phone with a larger display to watch more content on. The better telephoto lens may also tempt you if you shoot a lot of far-away objects.

Not to forget, the Galaxy S21 FE will also get an extra year of updates compared to the Galaxy S21 Plus. The Galaxy S21 FE starts at $699 and with some offers, you can get the phone for around $599. The Galaxy S21 Plus, on the other hand, was launched for $999 but is now available anywhere between $799 to $999 depending on where you buy it from and whether or not it’s locked to a carrier.

S21 Plus

In my opinion, it makes more sense to buy the newer device — the Galaxy S21 FE over the Galaxy S21 Plus. If at all you want a better device with more features, improvements, and the latest internals, I would suggest waiting for the Galaxy S22 series. In fact, you can reserve the Galaxy S22 right now and get an additional discount to bring the price closer to the Galaxy S21 Plus. There’s also a good chance that Samsung may have already sold out and discontinued sales of the Galaxy S21 Plus in your region by the time you read this, so do check out the Galaxy S21 FE against the currently available product series.

    The Galaxy S21 FE is Samsung's latest affordable flagship phone for the masses. It provides a flagship experience at a lower price.
    The Galaxy S21 Plus is last year's flagship phone that sits between the regular S21 and the top-end S21 Ultra.

You can also check out the best Galaxy S21 FE deals in case you plan to buy the device along with the best Galaxy S21 FE cases and screen protectors to protect your new device.

About author

Sumukh Rao
Sumukh Rao

A tech fanatic with a hunger for knowledge in the ever-growing field of science and technology. An avid quizzer and a gadget critic who loves simplifying tech for the masses has a keen interest in modding Android devices.

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