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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE smartphone became not only a long-awaited, but also a long-suffering “New Year’s surprise” for Russian fans of the brand. The updated model with the prefix “Fan Edition” in the name, specially designed for the “fans” of the brand, was delayed several times with the release during the last year, and there was no certainty that it would see the light at all. Nevertheless, the device was presented at the beginning of the year, and now there is a chance to compare it both with the previous model Galaxy S20 FE, which became widely popular, and with the current flagship of the current Galaxy S21 line.

The main characteristics of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (model SM-G990B)
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC, 8 processor cores (1×Cortex-X1 @2.8GHz + 3×Cortex-A78 @2.4GHz + 4×Cortex-A55 @1.8GHz)
Adreno 660 GPU
Android 11 operating system, One UI 3.1
Dynamic AMOLED 2X touch display, 6.41″, 1080×2400, 20:9, 411 ppi, 120 Hz
6/8GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128GB UFS 3.1 internal memory
No microSD support
Support Nano-SIM (2 pcs)
2G GSM, 3G WCDMA, 4G, 5G
GPS / GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BDS
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.2, A2DP, LE
NFC
USB Type-C, USB OTG
3.5mm audio output no
Cameras 12MP + 12MP (wide angle) + 8MP (telephoto), 4K@60fps video
32MP front camera
Proximity and light sensors, magnetic field, accelerometer, gyroscope
Fingerprint scanner under the screen (optical)
Battery 4500 mAh, fast charging 25W
Dimensions 156×75×7.9 mm
Weight 177g

Appearance and usability
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE smartphone resembles its predecessor Galaxy S20 FE much less than the current Galaxy S21 line. There is a more pronounced side frame, not flat, but still much wider, and the same shape of the ledge on which the camera lenses are located.

The backrest is also flatter, so the device is held even better in the hand than its predecessor, although the Galaxy S20 FE did not have any problems with it.

In the hand, not very large by today’s standards and not heavy at all, the device fits comfortably. All surfaces – both the side frame and the back wall – are matte, without lacquer or gloss. They do not slip in your fingers, almost no fingerprints are left on them, and the coating is practical.

The camera unit is not embedded in a sharply protruding rectangle, as in the Galaxy S20 FE, its platform smoothly merges with the entire back wall and does not differ from it in color. The cameras are slightly protruding, but in general the smartphone is stable on the table.

The buttons are even wider than on the Galaxy S20 FE. They are easy to feel blindly, have not a very long stroke, but a clear response.

The front camera is mounted behind a circular cutout in the screen matrix. There is no LED event indicator.

The fingerprint scanner is embedded under the screen glass. The sensor is optical, it works quickly and accurately. The facial recognition function is not so fast, but there are no complaints about it.

In the slot on the bottom end are installed only two cards Nano-SIM, place for a memory card microSD is not provided. Supports hot swapping cards.

On the bottom end, in addition to the card slot, there is a speaker, a microphone and a USB Type-C connector. There is nothing on the top end. There is no 3.5 mm audio output for headphones.

When buying the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, you can choose from several colors: green (swamp), purple (lilac), black and white. The case has received IP68 water and dust protection (must withstand immersion up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes).

Screen
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE smartphone features a 6.41-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080×2400, covered by flat glass without bent edges Corning Gorilla Victus. The physical dimensions of the screen are 68×142 mm, the aspect ratio is 20:9, and the dot density is 411 ppi. The width of the frame around the screen is 2.5 mm on the sides, 3 mm at the top and 4 mm at the bottom. The screen supports a refresh rate of 120 Hz.

The front surface of the screen is made in the form of a glass plate with a mirror-smooth surface that is resistant to scratches. Judging by the reflection of objects, the anti-reflective properties of the screen are better than the screen of Google Nexus 7 (2013) (hereinafter simply Nexus 7). For clarity, here is a picture of the white surface reflected in the turned off screens (left – Nexus 7, right – Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, further they can be distinguished by size):

The screen of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is noticeably darker (brightness according to the photos is 73 vs. 87 for Nexus 7) and has no pronounced tint. The doubling of reflected objects in the screen of Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is very weak, this indicates that there is no air gap between the layers of the screen. Due to a smaller number of boundaries (glass/air type) with very different refractive indices, screens without an air gap look better in conditions of intense external illumination, but their repair in case of cracked external glass is much more expensive, because it is necessary to change the entire screen. On the outer surface of the screen Samsung Galaxy S21 FE is a special oleophobic (grease-repellent) coating (very effective, much better than the Nexus 7), so fingerprints are much easier to remove, and appear with less speed than in the case of conventional glass.

When displaying the white field in full screen and with manual brightness control, its maximum value was about 340 cd/m² in normal conditions, and in very bright light it increases to 700 cd/m². You should also take into account the fact that in this case, the smaller the white area on the screen, the brighter it is, that is, the actual maximum brightness of the white areas will almost always be higher than the specified value. As a result, the readability of the screen during the day in the sun should be at an excellent level, and the dark theme not only saves battery power, but also contributes to better legibility of information on the screen in high light conditions. The minimum brightness value is 1.6 cd/m², which means the reduced brightness level makes it easy to use the device even in total darkness. The automatic brightness adjustment works according to the brightness sensor (it is located under the screen near the top edge and to the right of the center). The operation of this function depends on the position of the brightness adjustment slider: the user can try to set the desired level of brightness in the current conditions. If you leave everything by default, then in total darkness the auto brightness function decreases brightness to 8 cd/m² (a little dark), in conditions of artificial office light (about 550 lux) sets it to 110 – 150 cd/m² (normal), and under the direct sunlight increases it to 700 cd/m² (up to the maximum, as it should be). We were not quite satisfied with the result, so in total darkness we slightly increased the brightness, resulting in the following values for the three conditions above: 15, 110 – 150 and 700 cd/m² (the ideal combination). It turns out that the brightness auto-adjustment function works adequately and to some extent allows the user to adjust his work to individual requirements. But there is one caveat to its operation: without a sleep cycle and then turning on in complete darkness, the brightness is only reduced to 90 cd/m². At any brightness level there is a significant modulation at 60, 120 or 240 Hz. The figure below shows the brightness (vertical axis) vs. time (horizontal axis) for several brightness settings. First, for the mode with the 60 Hz refresh rate:

We can see that at high (as “100%++” we denoted the mode with additional illumination of the brightness sensor) and medium brightness the amplitude of modulation is not very large (or rather the duty cycle is clearly low), as a result there is no visible flicker. However, with a strong decrease in brightness there is a modulation with a large relative amplitude and high duty cycle, its presence can already be seen in the test for the presence of stroboscopic effect or simply when quickly moving the eyes. Depending on individual sensitivity, this flicker may cause increased fatigue. However, the modulation phase varies across the screen area, so the negative effect of flicker is reduced.

In the settings of the screen you can turn on the mode with an increased refresh rate up to 120 Hz. In this mode, we are at least promised an increase in the smoothness of scrolling.


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