Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Is the 2022 flagship worth the $100 premium?

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Is the 2022 flagship worth the $100 premium?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is an excellent phone that offers reliable performance, a large and vivid display, a good set of cameras, and the company’s promise of three major Android OS updates. But we also mentioned in our review that it might be worth waiting for the Galaxy S22 series as a potentially better phone was merely a few days away at that time. It’s almost like Samsung missed its memo and launched the Galaxy S21 FE a little too late. Well, the Galaxy S22 is here in its final form and it only costs $100 more than the Galaxy S21 FE. Should you swing the extra $100 for the Galaxy S22 or has the Galaxy S21 FE done enough to rank higher in the list of best Samsung phones? Let’s find out in our Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S21 FE comparison.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Specifications

Before we begin the comparison, let’s take a quick look at the specifications of each phone to find what they bring to the table:

Specification Samsung Galaxy S22 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Build
  • Glass back
  • Aluminum frame
  • Plastic back
  • Aluminum frame
Dimensions & Weight
  • 146 x 70.6 x 7.6mm
  • 167g for the non-mmWave model
  • 168g for the mmWave model
  • 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm
    177g
Display
  • 6.1-inch AMOLED 2X Display
  • 2340 x 1080, 425 PPI
  • HDR10+ certified
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • Always On Display
  • 6.4-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
  • 2340 x 1080
  • HDR10+ certified
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 240Hz touch sampling rate
SoC
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US, select other regions)
  • Samsung Exynos 2200 (most other countries)
  • USA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • International: Exynos 2100
RAM & Storage
  • 128/256GB internal storage
  • 8GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • No microSD card slot
  • 6GB + 128GB
  • 8GB + 256GB
  • No microSD card slot
Battery & Charging
  • 3,700mAh battery
  • 25W USB PD 3.0 PPS wired charging
  • Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (only available with Samsung Super Fast Wireless Charger and Super Fast Wireless Charger Duo)
  • Wireless PowerShare (reverse wireless charging)
  • 4,500mAh
  • 25W fast charging
  • 15W Qi wireless charging
  • 4.5W reverse wireless charging
Security
  • Ultrasonic Fingerprint sensor
  • In-display fingerprint scanner
  • Samsung Knox
Rear Camera(s)
  • 50MP main (F/1.8, 1.0μm, 85˚ FOV), binned
  • 12MP ultra-wide (F/2.2/1.4μm/120˚ FOV)
  • 10MP telephoto (F2.4/1.0μm/36˚ FOV)
  • Primary: 12MP, f/1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS
  • Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2, 123° FoV
  • Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4, 3X optical, 30X space zoom, OIS
Front Camera(s) 10MP (F2.2/1.22μm/80˚ FOV) 32MP, f/2,2
Port(s)
  • USB Type-C
  • No headphone jack
  • USB Type-C
  • No headphone jack
Audio
  • Stereo speakers
  • Bluetooth Dual Audio
  • Stereo Speakers
  • Dolby Atmos
Connectivity
  • 5G: Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave
  • LTE: Enhanced 4×4 MIMO, Up to 7CA, LTE Cat.20
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5/6GHz)
  • Bluetooth v5.2
  • NFC
  • GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou
  • Sub6/mmWave 5G
  • 4G LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/x (dual-band)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Ultra Wide Band (UWB)
Software
  • Android 12 with One UI 4.1
  • Four major Android OS updates promised
  • Five years of security patches
OneUI 4.0 based on Android 12
Other Features
  • Samsung Pay (MST in some countries, NFC)
  • Samsung Pay with NFC
  • IP68 rating

Looking at the specifications table, it’s safe to say that both phones are well-equipped to go against the rest of the offerings in the flagship space. You won’t end up with a “bad phone” after buying either of these devices, but there are some noteworthy differences that we’ll try to highlight in the following sections.

Design and Display

Samsung decided to go a little easy on the design changes this year, and as a result, the Galaxy S22 looks very similar to the Galaxy S21. The contour cut design at the back still looks very modern and different from other options on the market. The Galaxy S21 FE also has the same contour cut design but it has a different fit and finish overall as it’s made out of different materials. The Galaxy S21 FE comes with a plastic back while the Galaxy S22 series marks the return of the glass panel on the back. You get a metal mid-frame on both phones but the Galaxy S22 just looks a lot more premium.

Photo of the Galaxy S22 on a table

The contour cut at the back of the Galaxy S22 is also milled out of metal unlike in the case of the Galaxy S21 FE. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for those eyeing the Galaxy S21 FE but the Galaxy S22 looks and feels a lot more premium when you compare them side-by-side. Samsung’s current flagship also earns brownie points in the usability department as it’s shorter than the Galaxy S21 FE. It sports a 6.1-inch screen and measures 146mm in height. The Galaxy S21 FE, in comparison, features a 6.4-inch display on the front and it measures 155.7mm in height. The new flagship is also slimmer and weighs less than the Galaxy S21 FE, making it a fantastic choice for those who are looking to purchase a compact phone.

Galaxy S21 FE color options

The Galaxy S21 FE sports Gorilla Glass Victus on the front, whereas the Galaxy S22 features Gorilla Glass Victus Plus on both the front and the back. Both phones also have the same IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning they’re on par with each other in the durability department. If you’re still worried about keeping your phone safe and protected, then we recommend checking out our collection of the best Galaxy S22 cases and the Galaxy S21 FE cases to check all the available options out there. Before we move on to the display, it’s worth pointing out that you don’t get a 3.5mm headphone jack with either phone, so you’ll have to bring your adapter or a good pair of wireless earbuds.

Moving on to the front, you get a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with support for up to 120Hz refresh rate on both the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S21 FE. Samsung is known for making stunning AMOLED panels and the ones fitted on these devices are no exception. You’re bound to get a similar viewing experience on phones, but it’s worth mentioning that there are some noteworthy differences between the two panels.

For starters, the Galaxy S22 has a smaller display on the front. It measures 6.1-inches as opposed to the 6.4-inch display used on the Galaxy S21 FE. You get support for pretty much the same resolution but the Galaxy S22’s panel has a higher PPI count on the table. It’s not a significant difference and they’re virtually indistinguishable in real life. You also get support for HDR10+ on both phones to stream HDR content, but the Galaxy S22 has a slightly brighter panel. The Galaxy S22’s display goes up to 1300 nits of maximum brightness while the Galaxy S21 FE’s display tops out at 1200 nits.

Galaxy S21 FE display

Overall, it’s safe to say that both the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S21 FE have a lot in common in the design and display department. That being said, we think the Galaxy S22 is the more premium-looking phone in this comparison. It’s also more compact than the Galaxy S21 FE overall, making it a solid choice for most people.

Internal Hardware

Now that we’ve established the fact that both the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S22 look more or less the same from the outside, it’s time to take a peek under the hood to find out the difference in internal hardware. Right off the bat, the Galaxy S22 once again has a slight advantage over the Galaxy S21 FE with newer chipsets. The Galaxy S22 is powered by either the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or the Exynos 2200 chipset depending on where you buy it from. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is available in the US and some other regions, while the rest of the world gets the Exynos version. The Galaxy S21 FE also has two chipset options, but they’re both a generation older. You get either the Snapdragon 888 or the Exynos 2100 depending on where you buy it from.

The Galaxy S22 has the edge thanks to the new 4nm process and the new core architecture of the updated chipsets. But that’s not to say the Galaxy S21 FE is bad. Both the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100 are still very strong and relevant in 2022 as they continue to deliver reliable performance. You won’t notice a difference between the two devices outside of benchmarking applications. We expect all variants of the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S22 to perform the same when it comes to day-to-day workloads, be it for gaming or web browsing.

The base variant of the Galaxy S21 FE comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the Galaxy S22 comes with 8GB RAM as standard across variants. You can buy both devices with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, though. It’s worth pointing out that neither of the phones has a microSD card slot for expansion, so be sure to pick the right variant as you won’t be able to expand the storage in the future.

As for the battery, the Galaxy S22 comes with a smaller 3,700 mAh battery while the Galaxy S21 FE has a significantly larger 4,500 mAh unit. The smaller battery on the Galaxy S22 puts it in somewhat of a grey area as you may run out of juice before the end of the day depending on your usage. The Galaxy S21 FE, however, will easily last you a day or even more if you’re not a heavy user. We’ll have to recommend the ‘Plus’ variant in the Galaxy S22 series if you want better battery life. The charging speeds are also the same on both phones, meaning you get 25W wired and 15W wireless charging.

Cameras

Both the Galaxy S22 and the Galaxy S21 FE have a triple camera setup at the back, but we’re looking at different optics. Where the Galaxy S21 FE sports a 12MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, the Galaxy S22 offers more megapixels with its 50MP main shooter (with binned pixels), 12MP ultra-wide, and 10MP telephoto lens. Without getting into too many details, it’s safe to say that both phones can capture excellent photos. You’ll get sharp and detailed images from both phones, be it indoors or outdoors. The low-light performance is slightly better on the Galaxy S22, but you can get some usable shots captured in low-light with the Galaxy S21 FE too.

We didn’t get a chance to capture the same set of images on both phones for a side-by-side comparison, but we’ll add some sample shots below for you to check out. The selfie camera on both phones is located in a hole-punch cut-out towards the top of the display, but they use different sensors. The Galaxy S21 FE features a 32MP selfie camera while the Galaxy S22 gets a 10MP selfie shooter. Yes, the megapixel count is lower on the Galaxy S22’s selfie camera but we’ll once again remind you that a higher megapixel count doesn’t always translate to better images. The selfie shot captured using the Galaxy S22, as seen below, also looks great. On the video front, the Galaxy S21 FE tops out at [email protected]/60fps whereas the Galaxy S22 can also record videos at [email protected], in addition to [email protected]/60fps.

Samsung Galaxy S22 camera samples:

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE camera samples:

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE: Which one should you buy?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, as we mentioned in our review, is slightly older but a remarkable phone. It features a great 120Hz AMOLED panel, a good set of cameras, and a battery that lasts all day. You also get reliable chipset options and other noteworthy features like an IP68 rating, wireless and reverse wireless charging, the latest version of Android out of the box along with a promise of up to four Android OS updates.

The Galaxy S21 FE offers everything you want from a top-tier Android flagship in 2022, and it does so for a relatively cheaper price. So why bother spending $100 more on Samsung’s current flagship, the Galaxy S22? Well, the Galaxy S21 FE is a great phone but the Galaxy S22 also has a lot going for it. For starters, the Galaxy S22 looks more premium thanks to the upgraded build materials. It’s also available in a bunch of new color options that look gorgeous. Notably, you also get updated internals, better cameras, and the same software out of the box with the promise of up to four Android OS updates with the Galaxy S22.

The highlight of the Galaxy S22 — and also one of the main differentiators in this comparison — is its size. The Galaxy S22 may not be the most compact phone out there but it’s as compact as you can get for good in 2022. The Galaxy S22 is the one we recommend out of the two if you like compact phones and prioritize one-handed usage. The small form factor, however, comes at the cost, which in this case is the battery life. The Galaxy S22’s battery may not last you an entire day depending on your usage, and you’re also limited to just the 25W wired and 15W wireless charging like the Galaxy S21 FE.

With all that being said, we’d say the Galaxy S22 is the one to get if you need the latest internals, a great set of cameras, and a compact phone with a premium look and feel. But if the plastic back doesn’t bother you at all and you don’t mind using a phone with slightly old yet reliable internals then we’d say the Galaxy S21 FE is the way to as it also offers more value for your money overall. It’s bound to get the same number of software updates as the Galaxy S22 and its hardware will also serve you well for many years to come. It’s the best Galaxy S22 out there right now, especially if you can find it on sale.

    The Samsung Galaxy S22 is the entry flagship for 2022, bringing over top of the line performance and camera capabilities in a form that fits many pockets and budgets.
    The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is one of the best Galaxy S22 alternatives out there. It comes with reliable internals, a good set of cameras, and the same software out of the box as the Galaxy S22.

If you’re still looking to buy these phones, then be sure to check out our collection of the best Samsung Galaxy S22 deals and the best Galaxy S21 FE deals to see if you can save some money on your purchase. Alternatively, you can also check out our Galaxy S22 Ultra review if you want the best of what Samsung has to offer so far in 2022.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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