Samsung’s Fan Edition branding has always eluded me as a mystery to me. The folks who are first in line, first to read all of the associated news and speculations, and most importantly, the ones who are the first to check out the newest items from their favorite gadget manufacturers are what I consider to be fans. As a result, when Samsung introduced the $700 Galaxy S21 Fan Edition about a year after the original S21 was released, it seemed like a long time coming. What we’re looking at here is less of a phone for die-hard fans and more of a remix that incorporates some of the greatest features of the S21 at a reduced cost. Unfortunately, none of this resolves the S21 FE’s fundamental issue of feeling out of date very immediately after launch.
To be clear, the S21 FE may technically be a new phone, but let’s not pretend that we haven’t already seen it somewhere else. It’s virtually the same form and design queues as prior S21s, except for a slightly smaller size difference. Its 6.4-inch screen places it in the middle between the S21 and S21+ models, which both have 6.2-inch screens, respectively. In addition, the S21 FE weighs around six ounces less than its brothers, resulting from some streamlined design tweaks to the chassis.
The S21 FE retains Samsung’s Contour Cut design on the back, but instead of a camera bump with a metal shroud, the phone’s back is constructed of a single piece of matte plastic rather than metal. (“Classic,” according to Samsung, refers to a kind of plastic that has the appearance and feel of glass.) In addition, rather than using a two-tone color scheme, the S21 FE uses a single color throughout, with options in blue, lavender, bronze, white, red, and graphite as the primary colors (shown above).
The S21 FE retains the majority of its predecessor’s design elements, including a front-facing selfie camera that is centrally situated, a power button and volume rocker on the right, and a USB-C connector on the bottom for data and charging. In addition, there’s a speaker grille at the bottom of the phone that works in conjunction with the earpiece to offer stereo music, which sounds good even if it’s a touch short on bass for my tastes.
Samsung produces some of the greatest phone screens in the business, and although the screen on the S21 FE isn’t nearly as large or as high-resolution as the screen on the S21 Ultra, there isn’t much to be disappointed in. High-contrast, high-brightness display with a maximum brightness of over 700 nits, 120Hz refresh rate, and 2,400 x 1,080 screen resolution — the same as what you get on the S21+ — are all included.
Gorilla Glass Victus shields the display of the S21 FE on the front side. It also has a convenient fingerprint sensor built into the bottom of the screen. Even while Samsung’s optical in-screen fingerprint sensor isn’t as advanced as the ultrasonic sensors used in the original S21 models, it has proven to be both quick and trustworthy in my testing so far.
In contrast to the S21 FE, which ships with One UI 4.0 (based on Android 12), which is still being rolled out to earlier S21 handsets by Samsung and carriers, the S21 comes pre-installed with Android 12. Visually, this has little influence on the S21 FE’s main user interface and structure, while the additional customization choices make it simpler to modify your home and lock screens. The new Privacy Dashboard is the most significant update in One UI 4.0, which is particularly important given that Samsung’s version of Android transfer has long-supported features such as scrolling screenshots. In addition to new alerts that alert users when applications are using the phone’s microphones or cameras, the Privacy Dashboard gives a simple and quickly accessible method to manage things like permissions, data and tracking settings, and other locations, among other things. When digital privacy is a continual source of anxiety, having greater control over your data is unquestionably a positive development.
The cameras on the S21 FE are yet another example of how Samsung’s spec shuffle has had a significant impact. There are three cameras on the back of the phone, including a wide-angle, ultra-wide-angle, and telephoto lens. However, the resolution is reduced at 8 megapixels compared to the 64-megapixel sensor found in its predecessors. So even though you’re getting a 3x optical zoom, the images it produces are not as clear or detailed as they would be from a normal S21 camera.
The wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle cameras produce excellent images, while the S21 FE is still a step or two behind the Pixel 6. Examples include a photo of various toys taken outdoors in which the Pixel 6 retained highlights on one toy’s face while preventing the toy resting in the shadow from seeming overexposed. The S21 FE, on the other hand, completely blew out the sunny face and eyes while delivering nothing in the way of additional sharpness or detail. In low-light photography, Google’s Night Sight routinely outscored Samsung’s Night Mode, even though the S21 FE wasn’t far behind on most occasions. The S21 FE’s cameras, on the other hand, aren’t horrible; they’re not quite up to the level of the Pixel 6. Finally, let us not forget that the Pixel 6 only has two back cameras, with no specialized telephoto lens like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or Galaxy Note 9.
For its part, Samsung boosted the resolution of its front camera to 32-MP (from 10MP on the S21), which is a wonderful feature if you take a lot of selfies or movies for sharing on social media. Nonetheless, I don’t believe that this one addition is sufficient to significantly alter the overall impression of the gadget, making it seem more like a lovely bonus than a significant advance.
As of right now, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor found within the S21 FE is a very well-known entity. It provides responsive performance and provides features like 4K video recording across all of the phone’s cameras (at 60 frames per second on the main wide-angle and front selfie cams and 30 fps for the rest). However, as a result, I found that the S21 FE seemed a little sluggish at times, particularly while processing Night Mode photographs since the basic model only has 6GB of RAM compared to the standard S21, which has 8GB of RAM.
True, the differences are slight; in fact, you may not notice them until you use the two phones side by side for a long time. However, suppose you undertake many memory-intensive activities like gaming or video editing. In that case, the FE’s lower base RAM is perhaps the most compelling reason to spend an additional $70 to upgrade to the 8GB model, rather than just purchasing a normal or higher-end model.
Another advantage of the S21 FE’s larger body is that it allows a larger battery to be installed. As a result, instead of a 4,000 mAh cell like the one found in the S21, the S21 FE has a 4,500 mAh power pack, which results in a significant increase in battery life. When we tested the battery, the S21 FE lasted 16 hours and 55 minutes, which is a little more than an hour and a half longer than the S21, which lasted 15:17 on our tests. Moreover, in real-world use, the S21 FE’s battery life seems to be considerably greater than that, as I often ended the day with upwards of 40 percent of the battery remaining.
Furthermore, it should be noted that, like the normal model, the S21 FE does not include a power adapter in the package. Because of this, if you wish to use the phone’s 25-watt wired charging capabilities, you’ll most likely need to purchase a separate charging brick. It’s inconvenient, to be sure, but Samsung, like Apple, Google, and others, claims that not supplying a power adapter with their phones will help to reduce e-waste in the long run.
The supply of ordinary S21 models is beginning to run out, so the S21 FE does not compete against the original versions. Instead, it’s a replacement that’s been overdue for far too long. Even though it’s still a good phone, the ordinary Pixel 6 takes better images and has a more appealing look. Additionally, getting the unlocked model straight from Google will cost you $100 less. Because of this, the Pixel 6 is the superior choice unless you are very concerned about mmWave 5G (which the unlocked Pixel 6 does not enable) or having access to a high-resolution camera.
The S21 FE is running late. Samsung has previously announced that it will unveil its next major flagship device in the coming weeks. So even if you’re a major admirer of Samsung’s current FE device, you should at the very least hold off on acquiring what is effectively a year-old phone until you see what the S22 has to offer. In addition, the introduction of a fresh new Galaxy S phone is often accompanied by the announcement of discounts for earlier models.
In addition, I would like to see a smartphone that is more in line with the Fan Edition branding if Samsung intends to continue with this entire fan edition craze in the future. For example, instead of making a repackaged year-old phone, what if you created a premium remixed version with a microSD card slot and headphone jack? The inclusion of these features would not only provide a nice alternative to many of today’s flagships that have few ports, but it would also serve as a thoughtful acknowledgment to old-school Galaxy phone lovers who may have felt betrayed when Samsung eliminated such functions from the S20 in 2019. That’s the type of customer gratitude that I can truly get behind and support.
My name is Mukesh Jakhar and I am a Web Application Developer and Software Developer, currently living in Jaipur, India. I have a Master of Computer Application in Computer Science from JNU Jaipur University. I loves to write on technology and programming topics. Apart from this, I love to travel and enjoy the beauty of nature.