Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. S20 FE: Notable upgrades for the same $700 price

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This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 FE is kicking off CES 2022 with a sequel to 2020’s popular Galaxy S20 FE. The S21 FE will start at $700 (£699 or approximately AU$1,300) for the base model, which has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage, then step up to $770 for the 8GB/256GB variant. International prices weren’t available for the step-up model, but $770 converts to about £570 or AU$1,070. For reference, last year’s 5G version of the Galaxy S20 FE was also priced at $700 (£699, AU$1,149).

The S21 FE is designed to be an affordable alternative to the $800 S21 series, which Samsung says will gradually get phased out this year, as it makes way for the S22 lineup. It’s a similar position as 2020’s Galaxy S20 FE, which also offered a lower $700 price compared to the $999 Galaxy S20 while retaining many of its features.

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Samsungs’s Galaxy S21 FE runs on Snapdragon 888.


Samsung/Screenshot by Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The phone, which looks nearly identical to the Galaxy S21, has a crisp 6.4-inch AMOLED screen, a powerful Snapdragon 888 processor and a triple-camera module on the rear, which boasts a telephoto lens to zoom in on faraway subjects. Compared to last year’s popular S20 FE, Samsung hasn’t made many changes to the S21 FE, at least based on the specs. There’s no bundled charger, again. And battery size as well as charging speed support haven’t changed. 

There are a few differences to keep in mind. One hard-to-miss one is the elimination of the microSD slot for expandable storage, but this doesn’t come as a surprise. Samsung has routinely nixed the expandable storage feature, doing so in 2020 with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Flip foldable phones since it says “usage has markedly decreased.” 


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The S21 FE is also slightly lighter than the S20 FE: The new phone is specced to weigh 177 grams, which comes in at 13 grams less than its predecessor. It’s hard to tell without actually using the phone day-to-day whether you’ll notice any meaningful difference, but we’ll be sure to update that when we get to review the phone. 

For more details on the differences between the S21 FE and the S20 FE, you can also have a look at our specs chart below for a side-by-side comparison.

Galaxy S21 FE vs. S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Display size, resolution 6.4-inch AMOLED screen; Full HD Plus resolution (2,340×1,080 pixels); 120 Hz 6.5-inch super AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 401ppi 405ppi
Dimensions (Millimeters) 74.5×155.7×7.9mm 159.8×75.5×8.4mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 177g 190g
Mobile software Android 12 Android 10
Camera 12-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 8-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 8-megapixel (3x telephoto)
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel 32-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K
Processor Snapdragon 888 (in the US) Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (5G) Samsung Exynos 990 (4G)
Storage/RAM 128GB/6GB; 256GB/8GB 128GB/6GB
Expandable storage None 1TB
Battery/Charger 4,500 mAh (No bundled charger) 4,500 mAh (No bundled charger)
Fingerprint sensor In-display In-display
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack None None
Special features 5G (Sub-6GHz and mmWave), 120 Hz display, IP68 rating, 25W wired charging, 15W wireless charging 5G, 120Hz screen refresh rate, support for 25W fast charging and 15W fast wireless charging, IP 68 rating
Price off-contract (USD) $700 (128GB/6GB); $770 (256GB/8GB) $699
Price (GBP) £699 (128GB/6GB), likely £770 (256GB/8GB) £599 (4G), £699 (5G)
Price (AUD) UK price converts to AU$1,300 (128GB/6GB) AU$1,020

Juan Garzon/CNET

 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

New for 2022, the S21 FE, which starts at $700 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of nonexpandable internal storage, is designed to be an affordable alternative to the $800 S21 series, which Samsung says will gradually get phased out this year. The $770 step-up model will offer 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

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