Intended as the culmination of the Galaxy S21 series released last year, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is a well considered blend of flagship grade features at a very affordable price point that won’t break the bank but is it worth the money? Our Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G first look delves into its build, design and specifications to give you the proverbial lay of the land.
What is the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G?
The Galaxy S21 FE 5G is primarily intended as the bookend to the Galaxy S21 series that consisted of the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra that were released last year and feature a distilled medley of their best features with some minor concessions to cost and design to make it the most affordable entry to the Galaxy S21 series.
In some ways, it’s effectively a new subclass of its own, a ‘value flagship’ that seems intended to compete against more price oriented competitors by offering Samsung’s high standards of production quality in their devices at competitive price points.
Unlike the rest of the Galaxy S21 series, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is immediately recognisable on account of the fact that it uses a matte plastic chassis that has been designed with a nod towards the design philosophy of the rest of the series.
Another way to consider the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is that it’s a direct successor to the Galaxy S20 FE launched in late 2020 with a similar design philosophy that prioritises performance and value in equal measure.
While the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is considered the cheapest entry in the Galaxy S21 series, it’s no slouch in the performance department as it doesn’t cut corners on the most critical aspects of a smartphone – it has the very same flagship grade Exynos 2100 processor as the rest of the Galaxy S21 series along with a host of other refinements.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G First Look – Unboxing, Build and Design
In keeping with Samsung’s recent goals to be more ecologically responsible and sustainable, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G comes with the bare essentials to get started.
It also comes with packaging that’s distinctly different from the rest of the Galaxy S21 series.Unlike the rest of its siblings that feature literal black boxes, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G comes in a white box trimmed in matching colours to the phone.
Out of the box, the phone itself is the first thing you’ll see wrapped in a protective black plastic wrapper inset in a cardboard tray. The rest of the kit is somewhat spartan though and you get a USB-C to USB-C charging cable, a SIM eject pin and the usual warranty literature.
While the phone itself supports 25W wired and 15W wireless charging, you’ll have to rely on your own chargers or in lieu of that, buy one yourself. This is in keeping with the rest of the Galaxy S21 series though its predecessor the Galaxy S20 FE did come with a 15W charger in the box.
Our review sample of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G comes in a unique shade that seems to be a cross between than and khaki called Olive.
At launch in Malaysia, Samsung also released three other colourways – black, white and a very cute shade of Lavender. While black and white are the traditional classic gender neutral colours, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G in Olive makes for a very masculine looking paint job with a look that would pair well with most ensembles.
The entirety of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G’s backplate is a single polycarbonate plate with a raised section in the upper left corner for the triple camera housing that has been seamlessly moulded into the backplate along with a tiny cutout for the LED flash.
While it doesn’t look as flashy as the rest of the Galaxy S 21 series which has a separate camera housing made of metal that they’ve dubbed as the ‘Contour Cut’, the Galaxy S21 FE does have its charms.
While someone would initially dismiss the modest polycarbonate backplate, our Galaxy S21 FE 5G first look revealed that it actually makes for a more practical phone.
The matte Olive finish repels fingerprints wonderfully and the use of polycarbonate means that it’s markedly more resistant to drops, dings and scratches too which makes it, at least from a durability perspective, a more practical choice for students and young professionals. The matte finish is also pleasantly grippy too which minimises the chances of potential drops.
Better yet, the phone also has a robust IP68 water and dust resistance rating, allowing it to survive in up to 1.5 metres of freshwater for up to 30 minutes at a time.
The base of our Galaxy S21 FE 5G is fairly dense with a SIM card tray, a USB-C port and a speaker grille for one of the match set of stereo speakers with the other one inset in the top of the phone just above the display.
While the top and left side of the phone are otherwise bare save for some subtly etched antenna bands, the right side of the phone features a power button and volume rocker.
Up front, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G features a generously sized 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with Full HD+ resolution, support for HDR10+ content and a pleasantly smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Better yet, Samsung hasn’t cut corners here and has slapped on the toughest grade of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus onto the phone. Save for a tiny cutout for the 32MP selfie camera and tiny bezels on the tops and sides to give it a large 20:9 aspect ratio. Other mod-cons include an in-display fingerprint reader.
In terms of its overall design and build quality, our Galaxy S21 FE 5G first look doesn’t disappoint as the phone offers excellent bang for the buck, more so for its intended price point which costs RM3,099 for the 256GB variant or RM2,899 for the 128GB version.
You’re getting a phone with a durable polycarbonate backplate, a display sheathed in Gorilla Glass Victus and IP68 water resistance. Wielding the phone is a pleasant affair as well without any of the creaking you’d expect in a polycarbonate chassis which speaks volumes to their attention to quality.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G First Look – Specifications
In terms of specifications, Malaysia units of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G all, as you’d likely surmise, have 5G connectivity out of the box unlike last year’s S20 FE which had 4G and 5G variants in the market.
The rest of the hardware is suitably top-shelf as the Galaxy S21 FE 5G has the same Exynos 2100 processor as the rest of the Galaxy S21 series. This is paired with 8GB RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of non-expandable storage. The 8GB RAM on offer also puts it on par with the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ which is quite an impressive feat indeed, more so for its intended asking price that maxes out at RM3,099.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G does have one minor tradeoff in the storage department as it lacks a microSD card slot that its predecessor the S20 FE series had so you have to make the best of the storage you have on hand.
That aside, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G does have one marked advantage over the rest of the Galaxy S21 series as it runs Android 12 fresh out of the box and, in keeping with Samsung’s security updates will get at least 4 more years of security updates so it’ll still be getting security updates all the way to 2026 and 3 full years of Android updates so it’ll still keep humming along nicely for years to come.
The phone also features Samsung’s latest OneUI 4 with all their latest refinements which we’ll delve into in a later review.
The rear camera array on the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is somewhat similar to its predecessor the Galaxy S20 FE with the use of a primary 12MP F/1.8 Dual Pixel camera with PDAF and OIS, an 8MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and OIS for judder free zoomed in shots and a third 12MP ultra wide angle camera. The front gets a single 32MP F/2.2 wide angle camera for selfies.
In terms of capabilities, the Galaxy S221 FE 5G does lose out somewhat in the video capture department as it maxes out at 4K@60fps video capture versus the rest of the Galaxy S21 series that are capable of 8K video capture though for all practical intents and purposes, 4K video capture offers plenty of detail.
Keeping the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is a huge 4,500mAh battery that has 25W wired fast charging with USB PD 3.0, 15W Qi-wireless fast charging and reverse wireless charging support for other Samsung gear like the Galaxy Buds 2.
This is quite an achievement seeing as they’ve managed to shoehorn this into its 7.9mm thin chassis which is larger than what the Galaxy S21 and its 4,000mAh battery has to offer. Here’s a summary of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G’s specifications:
|Price||128GB (RM2,899 ) 256GB (RM3,099)|
|Display||6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 1080 x 2,400 pixels,120Hz, 411ppi|
|OS||Android 12 w One UI 4|
|Memory||8GB RAM/256GB or 128GB storage|
|Camera||12MP F/1.8 Dual Pixel PDAF w/ OIS + 8MP F/2.4 w/ 3x optical zoom, PDAF OIS + 12MP F/2.2 ultra wide angle [rear] / 32MP F/2.2 w/ gyro-EIS [front]|
|Battery||4,500mAh, 25W fast wired charging, 15W wireless charging, reverse wireless charging|
|Size/Weight||155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm / 177g|
Our Galaxy S21 FE 5G first look is promising indeed with excellent build quality, a larger 120Hz AMOLED display and solid specifications all around.
It did not disappoint with vibrant, luscious colours onscreen after paging through a few movie trailers, smooth performance when paging through multiple websites and snappy responsiveness when tackling texts and emails. Stay tuned for our impending full review where we put it through its paces!
Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G in Malaysia?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is now available nationwide in Malaysia in 128GB (RM2,899) and 256GB storage (RM3,099) variants and your choice of Olive, Lavender, Black and White colourways at all Samsung Experience stores, authorised dealers and the Samsung online store too.
Better yet, if you purchase the Galaxy S21 FE 5G at their online store, you’ll get 1 free year of SamsungCare+ support worth RM220 and a free RM350 e-voucher for your next purchase which represents substantial value any way you slice it. You can check out the official Samsung online store here.