Skip to main content

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe Display Sunset
Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe Display Sunset (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Galaxy S21 Fe White Render Crop

(opens in new tab)

The Galaxy S21 FE kicks off Samsung's portfolio for 2022, and there is a lot to like here. The phone is based on the S21 series and utilizes the same contour cut design at the back for the camera housing, and you'll find the same internal hardware as the S21. You also get decent cameras, IP68 water resistance, a gorgeous AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh, and it runs Android 12 out of the box.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Updated for 2022

Modern design
Vivid AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate
Snapdragon 888 is powerful
Versatile cameras
IP68 dust and water resistance
Android 12 with three further updates
Uses the same camera hardware as S20 FE
Not as good value

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Galaxy S20 FE Cloud Mint

(opens in new tab)

It's hard to fault the Galaxy S20 FE, particularly now that it's available at a discount. The hardware is still one of the fastest in this category, the cameras hold their own against the latest phones, and the 120Hz AMOLED panel makes the phone a delight to use. You're not missing out on any features here, and if you want a more affordable option to the S21 FE, the S20 FE is still a good pick for 2022.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Still a great choice

120Hz AMOLED panel
Snapdragon 865 still holds up in 2022
Cameras continue to deliver
IP68 dust and water resistance
All-day battery with 15W wireless charging
Will get three Android version updates
No 3.5mm jack
Won't be updated past Android 13

With over 10 million units sold in the first 15 months of availability, the Galaxy S20 FE was one of Samsung's best-selling phones of 2020. A lot of factors contributed to its robust sales, but it's because of the value on offer that the phone continues to do so well. Samsung is now looking to further that momentum in 2022 with the introduction of the Galaxy S21 FE. So let's take a look at what Samsung's latest value flagship has to deliver, and whether you should consider it over the S20 FE.

Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S20 FE: Design and display

Just like the Galaxy S20 FE mimicked the design of the regular Galaxy S20 back in 2020, the S21 FE is based on the Galaxy S21 series. That means you get a similar camera island at the back that Samsung calls the contour cut. The housing merges with the side to create a seamless look, adding a lot of elegance to the S21 FE.

The Galaxy S21 FE retains the best design features from the S21 series, and it's more comfortable to use.

You'll also find large rings around the three camera sensors, and this is the biggest visual differentiator between the S21 FE and S20 FE. The older model looks good in its own right, but it's lacking the kind of visual flair that you get with Samsung's latest value flagship.

As for the front, both phones are nearly indistinguishable. They sport cutouts for the front camera, and the one on the S21 FE is marginally smaller than its predecessor. What I like about the S21 FE is that it's narrower — 155.7mm versus 159.8mm on the S20 FE — and that makes the device that much more comfortable to hold and use.

The S21 FE is also 0.5mm thinner and a full 13g lighter than the S20 FE while still offering the same 4,500mAh battery. That's quite the considerable achievement, and as much as I liked using the S20 FE last year, I much prefer the in-hand feel of the S21 FE. Both phones feature a polycarbonate back, and that's fine in my book. If anything, it means there's one less pane of glass to worry about.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe With Box

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung isn't shortchanging buyers in other areas. The S21 FE features a 6.4-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, and it's nearly identical to the regular Galaxy S21 in this regard. The S20 FE also has an AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate, but the S21 FE just gives you that little bit more thanks to 240Hz touch polling and a brighter panel.

Both devices feature HDR10+ and a gamut of customization options, and the quality itself is among the best that this category has to offer. The best Android phones use Samsung's AMOLED panels, and the South Korean manufacturer reserves the best for its own devices.

You're not going to find the 3.5mm jack here, but both phones are outfitted with stereo sound, and they hold up just fine for streaming videos and playing games. To round things off, the S21 FE has Corning's latest Gorilla Glass Victus — just like the regular S21 series — so it should weather tumbles better than the Gorilla Glass 5-backed S20 FE.

Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S20 FE: Hardware

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe Back Sunset

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

On the hardware side, there isn't much to differentiate either device. The Galaxy S21 FE obviously has the edge here by virtue of launching 15 months later, so it gets to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 by default in North America. Samsung is using the Exynos 2100 in most global markets, and that is a bigger deal as it is considerably better than the Exynos 990 that featured in the global S20 FE.

Samsung hasn't missed out on any hardware features; you're getting all the extras here.

Given the hardware on offer, it's easy to see that the S21 FE handles anything you throw at it with aplomb. One of the reasons the S20 FE sold so well was because it didn't miss out on any hardware features, and that's continuing in 2022 with the S21 FE. The S20 FE is no slouch either, with the Snapdragon 865 faring just fine in 2022 without any noticeable slowdowns. As for 5G, the S21 FE has mmWave in the U.S. for carrier versions.

When it comes to battery tech, both phones are identical. They have the same 4,500mAh battery with 25W wired charging, 15W wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. The only area of difference is that you don't get a charger in the box with the S21 FE, with Samsung deciding its high-end phones don't require a bundled wall charger.

On that note, I have to mention one thing: Like the S21 series, there's no microSD slot on the S21 FE. This is the direction that Samsung is taking with its high-end phones, so if you absolutely need the slot, you will have to go with the S20 FE or pick up an alternative.

CategorySamsung Galaxy S21 FESamsung Galaxy S20 FE
Operating systemAndroid 12
One UI 4
Android 11
One UI 3.1
Display6.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED
2400x1080 (20:9)
HDR10+
Gorilla Glass Victus
6.5-inch 120Hz AMOLED
2400x1080 (20:9)
HDR10+
Gorilla Glass 5
ChipsetSnapdragon 888
1 x 2.84GHz X1
3 x 2.42GHz A78
4 x 1.80GHz A55
5nm
Snapdragon 865
1 x 2.84GHz A77
3 x 2.42GHz A77
4 x 1.80GHz A55
7nm
RAM6GB/8GB6GB/8GB
Storage128GB/256GB UFS3.1128GB/256GB UFS3.1
MicroSD slotYes (Up to 1TB)
Rear camera 112MP f/1.8
1.8um, OIS
8K at 24fps
12MP f/1.8
1.8um, OIS
8K at 24fps
Rear camera 212MP, f/2.2
1.12um, 123-degree wide-angle
12MP, f/2.2
1.12um, 123-degree wide-angle
Rear camera 38MP, f/2.4
1um, OIS, telephoto
3x optical zoom
8MP, f/2.4
1um, OIS, telephoto
3x optical zoom
Front camera32MP, f/2.2
4K at 60fps, autofocus
32MP, f/2.2
4K at 60fps, autofocus
Connectivity5G Sub-6/mmWave, SA and NSA
Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, A-GPS
5G Sub-6, SA and NSA
Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, A-GPS
AudioUSB-C
Stereo speakers
USB-C
Stereo speakers
Battery4500mAh
Non-removable
4500mAh
Non-removable
ChargingUSB-C PD 3.0
25W fast charging
15W wireless charging
USB-C PD 3.0
25W fast charging
15W wireless charging
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityIn-display fingerprint (optical)In-display fingerprint (optical)
Dimensions155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm
177g
159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm
190g
ColorsWhite, Olive, LavenderCloud Mint, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud Navy, Cloud White

Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S20 FE: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe Camera Hump Bokeh

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

There isn't much to talk about on the camera front because the S21 FE has the same camera sensors as the S20 FE. Samsung is using the same hardware in the same configuration: 12MP primary lens with OIS, 12MP wide-angle with 123-degree field of view, and an 8MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom and OIS. The front 32MP camera is also unchanged.

While the hardware itself is the same, the S21 FE should be able to take marginally better shots — after all, we've seen Samsung pull off a similar feat with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. That said, I'll share findings on this front after using the S21 FE for a little more time.

Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S20 FE: Software

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe With Box

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung has turned things around on the software front, and it now offers three years of platform updates and monthly security patches for its high-end phones. Both the S21 FE and S20 FE qualify for that distinction, and Samsung has done an admirable job updating the S20 FE over the last 15 months.

Of course, the S21 FE gets all the attention here because it's the first Samsung phone to launch with One UI 4 based on Android 12 out of the box. There's a lot to like in One UI 4, with Samsung adding all the latest features that Google introduced in Android 12 while retaining its own visual identity.

The biggest advantage with the S21 FE is that it will get updated to Android 15 three years down the line. The S20 FE, meanwhile, launched with Android 10, so its last platform update will be Android 13 that's due later this year.

Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S20 FE: It's an easy choice

Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe Back Hold Sunset

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

There's very little to distinguish these two phones from an internal hardware point of view. The Galaxy S20 FE still holds up just fine in 2022, and the S21 FE builds on that foundation with a more modern design, slightly faster Snapdragon 888 chipset, and Android 12 out of the box.

The Galaxy S21 FE is launching at a premium, but it's ultimately worth it for the software.

If you want to get your hands on a phone right now, the Galaxy S20 FE is still a good overall choice. But the one thing to consider is software updates. The S20 FE launched with Android 10, so it will only get one more platform update. So even though the S21 FE costs a little more, the fact that it comes with Android 12 out of the box gives it a distinct edge.

As for that sticker price, there may be some relief pretty soon. Samsung is getting ready to unveil the Galaxy S22 series later this quarter, and the regular model in that series should slot in for roughly the same $800 price point as the Galaxy S21, and that puts the S21 FE at a disadvantage.

So it is entirely feasible that Samsung will roll out enticing discounts on the S21 FE once sales of the S22 series kick off in earnest. But as of now, there's no telling when that will be the case, so if you need a phone now, you will have to shell out $700 for the S21 FE.

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.