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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S21: Biggest differences to expect

galaxy s21 fe vs galaxy s21
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It looks like there will be a Galaxy S21 FE this year. The Galaxy S20 FE offered a compelling flagship-tier smartphone for $699. It was a killer value, especially when compared to the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series. And from all appearances, the S20 FE sold good numbers. 

So it shouldn’t surprise you that Samsung is considering and possibly already preparing for a Galaxy S21 FE. But there’s an obvious big bump in the road: the base model Galaxy S21 is now just $800, which is a $200 price drop from the previous model  

In this Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21 face-off, we’ll take a look at how these phones will compare based on what we know. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: Price 

This will be the sticking point, as the Galaxy S21 FE would sit between the base model Galaxy S21 ($799) and the mid-range Galaxy A52 5G ($499). The Galaxy S20 FE came in at $699, so we’d guess that Samsung would stick to that, despite it being only $100 less than the S21. It’s possible Samsung could get even more aggressive and launch the S21 FE for $549 or $599, but right now we doubt it.  

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: Design and display 

Last year, the Galaxy S20 FE was a slightly slimmed-down, plastic version of the S20. On the surface, plastic on a Galaxy S device seems bad, but Samsung created a plastic-glass hybrid that feels like super premium plastic. For the Galaxy S21, Samsung brought that material over and it helped keep the cost of the S21 down.

For the S21 series, Samsung designed the camera module such that it blends nicely with the frame of the device, creating a smooth contour. We expect that the Galaxy S21 FE will do something similar, versus having the camera module stand out all on its own. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review

(Image credit: Future)

The S21 FE will supposedly come in six color options: Navy, Lavender, Mint, Red, White and Orange. The S21 comes in Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom White, Phantom Gray.

For the S21’s display, Samsung went with a 6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED panel with a variable refresh rate. The display could downclock to 48 Hz or crank up to 120 Hz when needed. You could also lock the display at 60 Hz to save on battery (which makes a noticeable difference on that phone). We imagine that the Galaxy S21 FE’s display will be similar, although some rumors suggest it will be slightly larger than the S21.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: Cameras 

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE cameras

(Image credit: Future)

Right off the bat, we don’t know much about the Galaxy S21 FE’s cameras other than its front-facing one. Leaks say that it will be a centered 32MP shooter, which ought to be pretty good.

The Galaxy S21 has three rear cameras: a 12MP wide-angle, 12MP ultrawide, and a 64MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom. It’s possible that the S21 FE might drop the resolution and/or zoom capabilities from the telephoto lens to keep costs down.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: Performance 

This is where we’ll likely see feature parity between the Galaxy S21 FE and Galaxy S21. The latter uses Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor with 8GB of RAM. The S21 FE should use the same system-on-chip, but Samsung might lower the RAM to 6GB instead of 8GB.

For storage, the S21 FE will probably sport 128GB of storage to start, though whether it comes in higher storage options remains to be seen. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: Battery life and charging 

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE renders

(Image credit: OnLeaks)

One area where the Galaxy S21 FE could really improve upon the Galaxy S21 is battery life. The regular S21 isn’t bad with its 4,000 mAh power pack, but even on 60 Hz mode, it falls short of the 10-hour average we see with other phones in the Tom’s Guide battery test. The handsets on our best phone battery life list all last 11 hours or more on a charge. Since some rumors suggest that the S21 FE might be a bit bigger than the S21, we hope Samsung will use this increase in size to include a larger battery.

The S21 series didn’t come with chargers in the box, since Samsung took yet another page from Apple’s playbook. The Galaxy S21 tops out at just 25W for fast charging. The S21 FE is not likely to feature faster charging.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: Outlook 

Samsung Galaxy S21 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

All of this leaves us with some final thoughts. If Samsung lowers the price too much, the Galaxy S21 FE will bite into the success of the A52 5G, which costs $499. If, say, the S21 FE comes in at $599, then we’d be faced with a very crowded smartphone lineup from Samsung, a problem it already has with the large spread of the new Galaxy A series. 

The existence of a Galaxy S21 FE raises more questions than it offers solutions. In fact, I think the S21 FE is the answer to a question that no one really asked in the first place — it doesn’t seem like we need an FE model this year. That said, it will no doubt sell well, considering it’d be a cheaper way to get into the Galaxy S family.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. It's hard to nail down one thing that Jordan is passionate about, since his attention span for a single given topic or activity doesn't last long. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter.