April 24, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S21: All the biggest rumored differences


The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (not pictured) is expected to be a cheaper alternative to the Galaxy S21 (above). 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S21 came out nearly a year ago, and it’s budget-minded sibling, the rumored Galaxy S21 FE, could be on its way as early as Jan. 4. Like last year’s FE model which had a reasonable $699 starting price, the Galaxy S21 FE is expected to be a less expensive version of Samsung’s marquee smartphone. 

But, you’re probably wondering what you’ll be missing out on by choosing Samsung’s budget-minded option over the standard Galaxy S21. It’s impossible to answer that question before Samsung announces the Galaxy S21 FE. But rumors and leaks may have given us some idea of how the Galaxy S21 FE could compare to its more expensive sibling.

It’s important to keep in mind that none of the information below has been confirmed by Samsung and may not reflect the actual device. One rumor from Korean news website DDaily also suggests the Galaxy S21 FE may only launch in Europe, so it might not be available in your area even if the leaks do turn out to be accurate.

Here’s what we know about how the Galaxy S21 FE could compare to the Galaxy S21.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (rumored)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (rumored)
Display 6.2-inch AMOLED 2,400 x 1,080; 120Hz refresh rate 6.4 AMOLED 2,340 x 1,080; 120Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
Camera 12-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 64-megapixel telephoto 32-megapixel, 12-megapixel, 8-megapixel
Front camera 10-megapixel 12-megapixel
Battery and charging 4,000 mAh capacity; fast charging; Wireless PowerShare 4,370 mAh capacity; fast charging
Storage 128GB or 256GB 128GB or 256GB
Memory 8GB RAM 6GB or 8GB RAM
Connectivity 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, ultrawideband 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0

The Galaxy S21 FE may have a slightly larger screen than the Galaxy S21

The Galaxy S21 FE is rumored to come with a 6.4-inch screen, according to information posted on China’s TENAA Certification website spotted by MyFixGuide. That would make it just a bit larger than the Galaxy S21’s, which has a 6.2-inch screen, possibly making it a good middle ground for those who want a screen that’s bigger than the S21’s but not as large as the 6.7-inch Galaxy S21 Plus.

It’s also expected to come with a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling, just like the Galaxy S21. But what’s less clear is the resolution we should expect to see. One report from MyFixGuide says the phone will come with a 2,340×1,080 resolution, while a follow-up report from the same website lists the resolution as 2,009×1,080. 

The first report is based on the TENAA Certification website, while the second came from leaked specifications that reportedly appeared on the Google Play Console, Google’s tool that lets developers publish and manage Android games and apps.

The Galaxy S21 FE’s price will probably be cheaper than the Galaxy S21’s

We can’t say anything about the Galaxy S21 FE with certainty just yet. But there’s a strong chance it will be cheaper than the Galaxy S21, just as the Galaxy S20 FE was about $300 less expensive than the Galaxy S20.

Since the Galaxy S21 starts at $800, that would put the Galaxy S21 FE at $500 if Samsung follows the same pricing structure. But this is all speculation at this point, since Samsung has yet to even announce the phone. But there’s a chance it might take a different approach since it already offers the Galaxy A52 5G at that price. 

Expect a triple-lens camera, but with different resolutions than the Galaxy S21

Like many of Samsung’s other Galaxy phones, the Galaxy S21 FE is expected to come with a triple-lens camera, according to MyFixGuide. But there are important differences when it comes to the quality of those cameras, the report suggests. The Galaxy S21 FE is expected to come with a 32-megapixel, 8-megapixel and 12-megapixel rear camera system and a 12-megapixel front camera. The Galaxy S21, by comparison, has a triple-lens camera with a 12-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultrawide, and 64-megapixel telephoto lens with a 10-megapixel selfie camera. 

That suggests the Galaxy S21 FE may take sharper selfies, but the Galaxy S21 will likely take crisper zoom and ultrawide shots. It sounds like Samsung wants to provide the flexibility that comes with having three cameras and multiple shooting modes, but may have opted for lower-resolution sensors to keep the price down. 

They might run on the same processor, but the Galaxy S21 FE may have a bigger battery

One area where Samsung doesn’t seem to be compromising is in the Galaxy S21 FE’s performance. It will reportedly run on Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon 888 processor, just like the Galaxy S21, according to MyFixGuide. That could be a key factor that distinguishes the Galaxy S21 FE from Samsung’s other budget phones, namely the Galaxy A52 5G, which runs on a less powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G chip. 

Another gray area, however, is the amount of RAM Samsung could put in the Galaxy S21 FE. RAM, or random access memory, is essentially your phone’s short-term storage. It lets you jump right back into an app and pick up where you left off without having to reload, making the experience feel snappier. 

The Galaxy S21 comes with 8GB of RAM, but reports are mixed on whether the S21 FE will include 8GB or 6GB of RAM. The MyFixGuide report based on the TENAA listing says it should come with 8GB, while the more recent report with details on the reported Google Play Console listing indicates it will have 6GB of RAM.

The design also seems similar to the Galaxy S21, but in different colors

Like the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 FE will reportedly have a nearly borderless screen with a hole punch cutout for the front camera. That’s according to leaked renderings claiming to show the device that were published by Evan Blass, a prolific leaker with a solid track record. There’s also a camera bump on the back just like on the Galaxy S21. Leaked marketing images from Coinbrs also show the Galaxy S21 and S21 FE’s similar design. 

Color choices appear to be the main difference between the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 FE in terms of design, according to Blass’ images. He shared photos of the S21 FE in black, white, green and purple. Images from German blog WinFuture, shared on Twitter by Roland Quandt, in November showed the Galaxy S21 FE would come in four colors as well with black, white, pink and green options. The Galaxy S21, however, comes in purple (with a pink camera module), gray, white and pink. 

Should you buy the Galaxy S21 FE?

We can’t answer that question until we try it — or at least have solid details about the phone. But if the rumors are accurate, it sounds like the Galaxy S21 FE could be a good fit for those upgrading from an older Samsung phone. If you were already considering waiting for the Galaxy S22 to launch so that you can get the Galaxy S21 at a cheaper price, the Galaxy S21 FE might be a better choice depending on how much it costs. Based on the rumors, it should offer smooth performance, a camera that’s plenty capable (but not as sharp as the Galaxy S21’s) and a spacious screen. But again, that all depends on how much the Galaxy S21 FE costs and whether you’ll actually be able to buy it outside of Europe.

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