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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs S21 (2021): Which Smartphone Should You Buy?

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and Samsung Galaxy S21 both offer an excellent price-to-performance ratio. They’re relatively affordable, but they don’t compromise on features and speed. But choosing between the two may not be as clear-cut.

First off, the Galaxy S20 FE has a lower price point, and it isn’t exactly getting left in the dust when it comes to specs. However, the Galaxy S21 doesn’t cost that much more, and it has a couple of new features here and there to boot. At that, we compare the two to help you decide which one to get.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs S21 Comparison Chart

ModelSamsung Galaxy S20 FESamsung Galaxy S21
 SAMSUNG Galaxy S20 FE 5G Factory Unlocked Android Cell Phone 128GB US Version Smartphone Pro-Grade...Samsung Electronics Samsung Galaxy S21 5G | Factory Unlocked Android Cell Phone | US Version 5G...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Display6.5-inch 2400 x 1080 Super AMOLED, 120Hz, HDR10+6.2-inch 2400 x 1080 Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 865Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Operating SystemAndroid 10 (Android 11 update available), One UI 3.1Android 11, One UI 3.1
Storage and RAM128GB/6GB RAM, 128GB/8GB RAM, 256GB/8GB RAM128GB/8GB RAM, 256GB/8GB RAM
CameraRear: 12MP f/1.8 (wide), 8MP f/2.4 (telephoto), 12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide)
Front: 32MP f/2.2 (wide)
Rear: 12MP f/1.8 (wide), 64MP f/2.0 (telephoto), 12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide)
Front: 10MP f/2.2 (wide)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0, USB-CBluetooth 5.0, USB-C
Biometric SecurityUnder-display fingerprint reader (optical)Under-display fingerprint reader (ultrasonic)
Battery4,500 mAh4,000 mAh
Water and Dust ResistanceIP68IP68
Dimensions (H x W x D)6.2″ x 2.9″ x 0.3″5.9″ x 2.8″ x 0.3″
Weight0.41 lbs0.37 lbs
ColorsCloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Red, Cloud White, Cloud OrangePhantom Gray, Phantom Violet, Phantom White, Phantom Pink

Design

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is thinner and smaller than the Galaxy S20 FE.

Here’s the Contour Cut of the Samsung Galaxy S21 (in photo).

Right off the bat, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is heavier and bigger, though that’s not saying much. It weighs 0.41 lbs and measures 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches in height, width, and depth, respectively. In comparison, the Galaxy S21 is 0.37 lbs and is at 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches. Still, that makes the latter sleeker, even though it’s just by a bit.

One thing worth noting about these more affordable versions of Samsung’s flagships is that they have a plastic back. That’s in contrast to the glass backs found on the likes of the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra. However, it’s not surprising since the company had to cut corners somewhere to keep their costs down. Speaking of, the Galaxy S21 has a new Contour Cut housing for its triple camera setup (more on that in a bit) that seamlessly blends with its metal frame, making it noticeably stand out from the Galaxy S20 FE.

Both have a water and dust resistance rating of IP68, so there’s no contest there. As for color options, the Galaxy S20 FE is available in Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud White, and Cloud Orange. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 comes in Phantom Gray, Phantom Violet, Phantom White, and Phantom Pink.

Click here for our comparison between the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Display

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a slightly sharper screen than the Galaxy S20 FE.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (in photo) supports a refresh rate of 120Hz.

The two have the same 2400 x 1080 resolution, but the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has a bigger 6.5-inch AMOLED Infinity-O display than the Galaxy S21’s 6.2 incher. In other words, the former offers more screen real estate, but the latter has a slightly sharper picture quality, clocking in at 421 ppi as opposed to 407 ppi.

They also have flagship features like a 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ support. However, the Galaxy S21 has the upper hand here, thanks to its adaptive refresh rate option. For the uninitiated, that means it can drop down to 48Hz whenever 120Hz isn’t needed to save battery life.

Last but not least, both have under-display fingerprint readers. However, the Galaxy S21 uses an ultrasonic scanner instead of the Galaxy S20 FE’s optical counterpart, which unlocks slower and is less accurate. 

Performance

Running on Snapdragon 888, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is faster than the Galaxy S20 FE.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 (in photo) has the same Snapdragon 888 processor as the Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

When the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE rolled out, one big piece of good news was that it didn’t skimp on performance. To be exact, it launched with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 under the hood, the same processor that powers the other Galaxy S20 models. But unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S21 is the faster smartphone of the two, coming in with a newer and speedier Snapdragon 888. On that note, the Galaxy S20 FE manages to net a single-core score of 714 and a multi-core score 2,431 on Geekbench 5. However, it’s outperformed by the Galaxy S21, getting a single-core of 906 and a multi-core score of 2,972.

Depending on the configuration, the Galaxy S20 FE can either have 6GB or 8GB of RAM for its 128GB version or 8GB RAM for its 256GB one, but the Galaxy S21 has 8GB of RAM for both its 128GB and 256GB variants. In terms of capacity, the Galaxy S20 FE does have a small advantage with its microSD card slot that can potentially add up to 1TB of additional space.

Now the Galaxy S20 FE may have a larger 4,500 mAh battery, but the aforementioned adaptive refresh rate of the Galaxy S21 allows it to last longer on a single charge even with a smaller 4,000 mAh battery. That’s assuming that both are set to 120Hz. Both support 25W fast charging, 15W fast wireless charging, and 4.5W reverse wireless charging, but for the record, only the Galaxy S20 FE comes with a 15W charger out of the box.

These two are also 5G-ready, but only the Galaxy S21 has support for all 5G bands in the United States. In the Galaxy S20 FE’s case, Verizon subscribers who want to use the carrier’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will have to nab the Galaxy S20 FE UW, which is a bit more expensive.

Camera

With a 64MP telephoto lens, the Samsung Galaxy S21 can take sharper photos when zoomed in than the Galaxy S20 FE.

A closer look at the triple cameras of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (left) and Galaxy S21 (right).

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and Galaxy S21 have three cameras in total, and both use a 12MP main snapper and a 12MP ultrawide lens. The only difference is the Galaxy S20 FE only has an 8MP telephoto lens, while the Galaxy S21 has a 64MP one. The takeaway is that the latter can take higher-quality shots. But in the Galaxy S20 FE’s defense, it has a 32MP front camera, which is better than the Galaxy S21’s 10MP by a lot. Put differently, it’s better for selfies and the like.

Both have 3x optical zoom, and with the magic of technology, they can also zoom up to 30x. By the same token, the Galaxy S21 also features Zoom Lock, which helps a lot in stabilization when zooming in on a subject. Moreover, it has Single Take 2.0, which captures multiple photos and videos at a tap of a button. Basically, it builds on its predecessor with more options for a variety of content and avoids taking blurry faces.

Verdict

There’s no reason to get the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE over the Galaxy S21, unless it’s available at a huge discount.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is hands down our pick here. It has more features such as dynamic refresh rate and Single Take 2.0, better performance with its Snapdragon 888 chip, and a sleeker design, partly owing to its Contour Cut design. On top of that, the price difference isn’t that big either.

However, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is still a good pick, but only if it’s on sale. After all, it’s hard to justify getting it at its full price with the Galaxy S21 around.

FAQs

📌 Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 better than the Galaxy S20 FE?

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 has more features and offers faster performance than the Galaxy S20 FE. But there are a few similarities between them, including a plastic back, IP68 water resistance, and a resolution of 2400 x 1080.

📌 What is the difference between the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S20 FE?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a Snapdragon 888, 8GB of RAM for all its variants, and features like Single Take 2.0 and adaptive refresh rate. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S20 FE has a Snapdragon 865, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, a microSD card slot, and a larger 4,500 mAh battery, as well as an included charging brick.

📌 Is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE still worth it?

Yes, but only if it’s available at a discounted price. That’s because the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE costs almost the same as the Galaxy S21, which is better in more ways than one.

📌 Is the Samsung Galaxy S21 worth it?

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is 5G-capable, and it’s powered by the same processor as its pricier siblings, namely the Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Moreover, it has a ton of features, including Zoom Lock, Single Take 2.0, and adaptive refresh rate.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.