Meet the Samsung Galaxy S22 appetizer: the new Samsung Galaxy S21 FE at CES 2022
This is Samsung's first new phone at CES 2022, but it won't be the last in the coming weeks
Table of contents
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE specs and my hands-on impressions
Samsung Galaxy S22 tease – PS5 and Xbox Series X chip architecture
The Samsung Galaxy S22 isn’t being announced at CES 2022 in Las Vegas, but I’ll be tracking the S22 release date in the coming weeks. This week, I got hands-on time with Samsung’s appetizer to that main dish: the new Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.
I’m moving beyond PS5 restock and Xbox Series X restock information, as I want to provide broader tech buying advice to my subscribers in 2022. Yes, I’ll be tracking consoles still, but here’s my very first article from CES 2022 in Las Vegas.
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➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: Galaxy S21 FE
📱 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE = FE stands for Fan Edition
🗓️ Release date: Tuesday, January 11 (next week)
💸 Price: $699. That’s $100 cheaper than the S21
🌈 Four Colors
🟪 Lavender (my top pick)
🫒 Olive (2nd place)
📺 6.4-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display, 120Hz refresh rate
📐 74.5 x 155.7 x 7.9mm, 177g
👆 Optical fingerprint sensor (not ultrasonic like the S21)
📸 12MP main camera, f/1.8
📸 12MP ultra-wide camera, f/2.2, 123º field of view
📸 8MP telephoto camera, 3x optical zoom, 30x ‘Space Zoom’
🤳 32MP selfie camera, f/2.2, 81º field of view
🧠 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset
⚙️ 8GB RAM + 256GB storage OR 6GB RAM + 128GB storage
🔋 4,500mAh battery
🔌 25W Wired, 15W wireless, Wireless PowerShare
🤖 Android 12
💦 IP68 dust & waterproof rating
What’s different about the S21 FE?
Design: It feels good in the hand – smoother camera bump
Display: 6.4-inch Full HD+ display – slightly larger than the S21
Camera: Mostly the same – telephoto camera dials back some megapixels
More + less in the right areas: Bigger battery and cheaper price
The new Samsung Galaxy S21 FE offers a smoother feeling back cover, slightly bigger screen, larger battery capacity and a cheaper price when compared to the Galaxy S21.
It’s $100 cheaper than the 11-month-old Galaxy S21, a key selling point for consumers who were in no rush to buy into the Galaxy S21 series before today. It comes in four colors, with lavender being this year’s standout, in my opinion. White, graphite and olive will also be available on launch day, Tuesday, January 11.
Smoother camera bump, but at what cost?
What I noticed right away was a smoother incline to a less pronounced camera bump. I like it a lot. But… I wonder if it’s worth it. I think too many smartphone reviewers list ‘it has a camera bump’ as a con on all of their flagship smartphone reviews… when they’d be the very first to criticize a phone’s camera if it were any worse in quality – these reviewers just don’t get physics; it’s become a tired smartphone review cliché.
One year after the S21, it’s nice to see extra polish to Samsung’s camera module design – but I stand by my original point: I’d rather have a more powerful camera than either a diminished camera bump or no camera bump whatsoever.
Case in point, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE telephoto lens specs are dialed back from the S21’s 12MP telephoto camera. We have just 8MP here (this is probably just as much of a cost-savings decision as much as it is a design decision). Good news: the Galaxy S21 FE is still offering 3x optical zoom and a 30x ‘Space Zoom’.
I’ll have to test out the Galaxy S21 FE more to see if there’s a big difference between it and the S21 in exchange for that $100 savings and that smoother camera bump.
Bigger screen, different fingerprint sensor
The 6.4-inch display offers a bit more finger-tapping real estate than the 6.2-inch S21 and it has the same buttery-smooth 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. Yes, like the S21 and S21+, it’s “just” Full HD+ instead of the Quad HD+ resolution available on the premium S21 Ultra. But here’s something they don’t tell you: Samsung ships all of its phones at Full HD+ 1080p by default anyway (it’s a battery life savings thing) and most people can’t tell the difference (a phone is not like big TVs where pixels get stretched).
The S21 FE uses an optical fingerprint sensor, which in my past testing has been good enough. But more advanced ultrasonic fingerprint sensors – like in the S21 trio – have always proven to be more accurate in my trials.
If you’re moving from the year-old S20 FE, you’ll like the fact that this phone has a superior Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen, matching the color vibrance on the rest of the S21 line. Booredatwork has a nice video on that comparison.
Wait for the Samsung Galaxy S22?
The hype for the new Samsung Galaxy S22 is strong, and for good reason. Samsung’s flagship smartphone may launch in early February 2022 and further meld features of the now-defunct Galaxy Note series into its S series of phones. This means we could finally see a spot to put the S Pen inside the phone again – no case with an awkward S Pen holder required.
Samsung has the best camera UI hands-down, much better than Apple’s interface – and this is coming from a daily iPhone 13 Pro Max user. Samsung’s slick UI is present even on the cheaper Galaxy S21 FE, but the S22 Ultra is poised to take things further: the camera sensors will get a meaningful bump over the current S21 Ultra, and the power enhancements won’t stop there.
Samsung has already teased a powerful AMD RDNA 2 GPU for its smartphone, which – perfect segue for my Twitter followers – is the same chip architecture that powers the PS5 and Xbox Series X. I don’t expect PS5 and Xbox Series X-level graphics from the Galaxy S22 or any smartphone in 2022. But I expect to see much better mobile gaming performance when the Galaxy S22 launches and active cooling to match.
The Galaxy S21 FE represents a polished take on last year’s S21 phones and the end of the S21 series story arc. The S22 is going to show it up in a matter of weeks with performance upgrades and proper S Pen functionality but at a higher price.
Samsung almost offers too many phones these days, but for consumers, that’s not such a bad thing except for the fact that it can be a bit confusing.
For a tech journalist like myself, that’s not such a bad thing either. I’m here to explain it all – ask my questions.