When I wrote my Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review earlier this year, I had some simple advice for people mulling whether to get the lower-cost version of last year's Samsung flagship — wait for a bit. Owing to a quirk in the Galaxy S21 FE's delayed release, the phone arrived just before the Samsung Galaxy S22 launch, so a newer and more improved phone was lurking just beyond the horizon.
"With the Galaxy S22 about to launch, it's hard to recommend buying the Galaxy S21 FE until you've at least seen all the upcoming phone's new features and whether they'll justify paying a little bit extra for that handset," I wrote at the time.
Well, we've seen the new features. and I've had a chance to test the new phone for my Galaxy S22 review. And you know what? If you can swing the extra $100 that the new flagship costs compared to the Galaxy S21 FE, there's no need for you to consider getting the latter phone. The Galaxy S22 simply ranks higher on the list of best Samsung phones.
You can read our Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 comparison to see how the two phones compare, but there are some key areas where the Galaxy S22 is demonstrably better than its cheaper counterpart.
Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 specs compared
|Galaxy S21 FE||Galaxy S22|
|Screen size||6.4 inches||6.1 inches|
|Refresh rate||120Hz, manually adjusted||120Hz, adaptive|
|CPU||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1/Exynos 2200|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||128GB, 256GB|
|Rear cameras||12MP main; 12MP ultrawide; 8MP telephoto||50MP main; 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto|
|Battery size||4,500 mAh||3,700 mAh|
|Colors||Black, white, lavender, green||Black, white, green, pink gold|
The Galaxy S22's display refresh rate is truly adaptive
Both the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 FE can boost their refresh rate to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and more immersive gaming. But only the Galaxy S22 can scale that refresh rate down dynamically when the action on your screen isn't as frenetic. You can only manually adjust the Galaxy S21 FE's display, toggling between 120Hz and 60Hz.
A dynamic refresh rate is supposed to help manage power consumption, as a slower refresh rate doesn't drain the battery as quickly as keeping things locked in at 120Hz will. (In fairness, the Galaxy S22's battery life in our testing didn't exactly wow us, but that's the theory at any rate.) But it's also more convenient to have your phone automatically scale the displays refresh rate up and down rather than having to hop into Settings to adjust things yourself.
You'll get a faster processor with the Galaxy S22
While the Galaxy S21 FE features the same chipset as the rest of the Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup, the Galaxy S22 features upgraded silicon. Instead of the Snapdragon 888 that powered last year's flagships, the S22 relies on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 system-on-chip.
That translates to better performance on the newer phone, though the gains are somewhat modest. On Geekbench 5, the Galaxy S22 produced respective scores of 1,204 and 3,348 in the single- and multicore tests; both results beat the Galaxy S21 FE's comparable scores of 1,101 and 3,199. The graphics performance measured by 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited test was much more impressive on the Galaxy S22 — 60 frames per second vs. the S21 FE's 34 fps result.
The performance improvement alone may not be enough to justify paying up for the Galaxy S22, but stack it on top of the new phone's other advantages, and it's another reason to pay the addition $100 for the latest device.
The Galaxy S22 isn't plastic
For the less expensive Galaxy S21 models — the FE included — Samsung went with the "glasstic" route, using polycarbonate materials on the phone's casing as a way to keep costs down. A year later, Samsung apparently figured out how to incorporate more polished materials in a $799 phone. The Galaxy S22 uses glass and aluminum, and the result is a more sophisticated look and feel. The use of glass increases the chances of an ugly crack if you drop the phone, true, but that's where the best Galaxy S22 cases come into play.
You'll take better pictures with the Galaxy S22
We're actually impressed by the cameras on the Galaxy S21 FE, which can hold their own against some of the best camera phones out there. You even get a telephoto lens on the S21 FE, something you don't often see on phones in that price range. And it supports a 3x optical zoom, the same zoom capabilities as the S22.
But the cameras on the Galaxy S22 are better. Not only does the S22 use a 50MP main camera to the S21 FE's 12MP shooter, the sensor is also bigger to let in more light. That means the S22 is more likely to produce better photos when the lights are low, and the new phone's AI Stereo Depth Map should capture better portrait shots, too.
Galaxy S22 or Galaxy S21 FE — the bottom line
As noted above, the Galaxy S21 FE is not a poor phone by any means. If the absolute upper limit of what you can pay is $699, then the S21 FE is the best option for that money, even if the best Galaxy S22 deals likely mean you can pick up Samsung's current flagship for less than its $799 asking price. The Galaxy S21 FE also benefits from a change to Samsung's update policy instituted with the S22's release — like the newer S22 models, the Galaxy S21 FE now gets four years of software updates.
But the better cameras, newer processor and adaptive display make the Galaxy S22 a better choice for fans of Samsung phones – so much so that the $100 price difference is easier to swallow. You should always strive to get the best value for your dollar, and in this case, the Galaxy S22 has more to deliver.