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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Should you upgrade?

It's been a while coming, but the S21 FE finally has a direct successor.
By

Published onJanuary 30, 2024

samsung galaxy s23 fe colors laid out
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE succeeds the Galaxy S21 FE, which was launched in early 2022. The FE philosophy is only to make a few changes while delivering a close-to-flagship experience. To that end, the Galaxy S21 FE won a lot of hearts, though many found its launch pricing funny. Can the Galaxy S23 FE do the same? Should Galaxy S21 FE owners consider the S23 FE a worthy upgrade? Let’s find out in this Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Galaxy S23 FE specs comparison!

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: At a glance

  • The Galaxy S23 FE has a newer, more powerful processor than the Galaxy S23 FE in the United States.
  • The Galaxy S23 FE has a better primary camera.
  • The Galaxy S23 FE is significantly cheaper at launch than the Galaxy S21 FE's launch price.
  • The Galaxy S23 FE has a glass back, while the Galaxy S21 FE has a polycarbonate back.
  • The Galaxy S21 FE has a higher megapixel count on the front camera than the Galaxy S23 FE.
  • The Galaxy S21 FE is lighter and marginally smaller than the Galaxy S23 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Specs

Samsung Galaxy S21 FESamsung Galaxy S23 FE
Display
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
6.4-inch Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080)
19.5:9 aspect ratio
120Hz refresh rate
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
6.4-inch Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080)
19.5:9 aspect ratio
120Hz refresh rate
Processor
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
USA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
Global: Exynos 2100
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
USA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Global: Samsung Exynos 2200
RAM
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
6GB, 8GB
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
8GB
Storage
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
128GB, 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
128GB, 256GB
Battery and charging
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
4,500mAh battery
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
No charger in the box
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
4,500mAh battery
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
No charger in the box
Cameras
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Rear:
- 12MP main
ƒ/1.8 aperture, OIS

- 12MP ultrawide
ƒ/2.2 aperture, 123-degree FoV, 1.12μm

- 8MP telephoto
ƒ/2.4 aperture, 3x optical zoom

Front:
- 32MP
ƒ/2.2 aperture, 1/2.74-inch, 0.8μm
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Rear:
- 50MP main
ƒ/1.8 aperture, OIS

- 12MP ultrawide
ƒ/2.2 aperture, 123-degree FoV, 1.12μm

- 8MP telephoto
ƒ/2.4 aperture, 3x optical zoom

Front:
- 10MP
ƒ/2.4 aperture
Audio
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Stereo speakers
Dual mics
No 3.5mm port
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Stereo speakers
Dual mics
No 3.5mm port
Security
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
In-display fingerprint
Samsung Knox
5 years of security updates
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
In-display fingerprint
Samsung Knox
5 years of security updates
Water resistance
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
IP68
Connectivity
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC support
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
Software
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
One UI 4 based on Android 12
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
One UI 5.1 based on Android 13
Materials
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Gorilla Glass Victus front
Metal frame
Plastic back
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Gorilla Glass 5 front
Metal frame
Gorilla Glass 5 rear
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm
177g
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
157.9 x 76.5 x 8.1mm
209g
Colors
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
White, Graphite, Lavender, Olive
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Mint, Purple, Cream, Graphite
Samsung.com exclusive: Indigo, Tangerine

Zooming out and comparing the two phones, the Galaxy S23 FE is just about a camera and processor refresh over the Galaxy S21 FE. And that’s not a bad thing per se since the Galaxy S21 FE came with a well-appreciated spec sheet.

The most significant point of difference is the switch over to the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC over the Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US and the Exynos 2200 over the Exynos 2100 globally.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE rear on blue background
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

While the processor refresh is appreciated, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is a difficult recommendation in late 2023 when the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, 8 Gen 2, and even the 8 Gen 3 exist, and even their successor is around the corner. The jump from the 8 Gen 1 to the 8 Plus Gen 1 is significant, so this looks like a missed opportunity from Samsung, even at the reduced price. It’s a fine enough processor in terms of burst performance, but in our experience, it thermal-throttled under sustained load on the Galaxy S23 FE.

The processor refresh on the Galaxy S23 FE is a big highlight, but Samsung could have used a newer, better chip.

The Galaxy S21 FE comes in 6GB and 8GB RAM variants, while the Galaxy S23 FE comes in an 8GB RAM variant only. There are 128GB and 256GB internal storage options on both phones, though neither offers microSD card expandability.

samsung galaxy s23 fe colors propped up
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The next noticeable difference between the two phones is the design. The Galaxy S21 inspired the Galaxy S21 FE, while the Galaxy S23 inspired the Galaxy S23 FE. But since the evolutionary S22 is missing between the two FE generations, we get two FE phones that look very different.

The Galaxy S23 FE retains the iconic separate camera lens from the Galaxy S23, skipping over its predecessor’s combined camera island design. It also has a similar aluminum mid-frame and glass back, albeit downgraded from Gorilla Glass Victus 2 to a more modest Gorilla Glass 5. That said, it bests the S21 FE’s glass-metal-plastic combination. Gorilla Glass Victus protects the front of the S21 FE, while the S23 FE comes back down to Gorilla Glass 5 on the front.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE left front profile on rocks
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Other minor changes on the Galaxy S23 FE include support for Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. In comparison, the Galaxy S21 FE supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Both support NFC.

Beyond that, the Galaxy S23 FE is quite similar to the Galaxy S21 FE. You get a 6.4-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate on both phones. Both phones have noticeable bezels around the display, though you get used to it after a few days.

samsung galaxy s23 fe standing by a rainy window
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

One point of difference would be the software. The Galaxy S21 FE launched with One UI 4 based on Android 12 in 2022 and is promised four major Android OS updates and five years of security updates. Samsung’s excellent update promise has not changed with the Galaxy S23 FE, but since this is a new device, it is launching with One UI 5.1 based on Android 13 in 2023. It will be supported longer than the older device, thanks to its age. Both devices have received their Android 14 update.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Size comparison

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE rear panel over tracks
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Despite the similarities in specifications, the Galaxy S21 FE is a lighter and marginally smaller phone than the Galaxy S23 FE, perhaps due to the plastic rear.

samsung galaxy s23 fe back in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S21 FE measures 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm. The Galaxy S23 FE is taller at 157.9mm, wider at 76.5mm, and marginally thicker at 8.1mm.

These differences add to a good 32g weight difference between the two phones, with the S21 FE weighing 177g while the S23 FE weighs 209g.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Camera

samsung galaxy s23 fe cameras close up
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

One of the few differences between the two phones is in the primary rear camera. The Galaxy S21 FE has a 12MP primary camera with an f/1.8 aperture and OIS. On the other hand, the Galaxy S23 FE upgrades this to a 50MP primary camera with an f/1.8 aperture and OIS. We’ll be running in-depth camera tests to see where it ranks among the best camera phones.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE primary camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE primary camera samples

The ultrawide and telephoto cameras on both phones are the same. You get a 12MP ultrawide with f/2.2 aperture and an 8MP telephoto with f/2.4 aperture and 3x optical zoom capabilities.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE ultrawide camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE telephoto camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE ultrawide and telephoto camera samples

The selfie camera on the Galaxy S23 FE sees a resolution downgrade, going down to 10MP with f/2.4 aperture and Dual Pixel tech from the 32MP with f/2.2 aperture on the Galaxy S21 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE front camera samples

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Battery life and charging

samsung galaxy s23 fe usb c port
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S23 FE have the same specifications for battery and charging. The 4,500mAh battery on the Galaxy S21 FE lasts for a day and a half of regular use, while the Galaxy S23 FE lasts for a day and some hours of regular use.

As for charging, the Galaxy S21 FE and Galaxy S23 FE both support 25W fast wired charging and 15W wireless charging, as well as 4.5W reverse wireless charging. With a good charger, you will need about 90 minutes to fully charge either device, while wireless charging will take upwards of two hours for a full charge.

Neither phone has a charger in the box, though, so you must buy a good, compatible charger (look for Power Delivery PPS compatibility).

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Price and availability

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (6GB/128GB): $699.99
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (8GB/256GB): $769.99
  • Samsung Galaxy S23 FE (8GB/128GB): $629.99
  • Samsung Galaxy S23 FE (8GB/256GB): $689.99

Perhaps the most significant change between the two phones is the price. The Galaxy S21 FE was launched with a starting price of $699, which pits it close to the Galaxy S22 and other top Android phones. As a result, many did not properly appreciate the value that the Galaxy S21 FE brought to the table despite its decent spec sheet.

The lower launch price of the Galaxy S23 FE fixes the primary shortcoming of the Galaxy S21 FE.

Samsung is fixing some of the mistakes with the Galaxy S23 FE, which has a significantly lower starting price of $630 (going down to $600 if you buy the carrier variant) despite the improved specifications. This puts a reasonable $150+ price gap between the FE and the Galaxy S23, giving users a more substantial value for money than its predecessor.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Should you upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE against plant rear centered right
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

The Galaxy S23 FE is a decent upgrade over the Galaxy S21 FE, especially since it brings the price down. This lower launch price on the S23 FE adds back the value quotient missing from the S21 FE. The price difference between the FE and the current flagship Galaxy S23 will push many more people to consider the Galaxy S23 FE, which is excellent news.

The Galaxy S23 FE is a good upgrade over the Galaxy S21 FE, but know that you have plenty of other options.

However, there is no getting around the fact that the Galaxy S23 FE uses an old, problematic processor. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 lags behind the 8 Plus Gen 1 by a significant margin, and the performance and efficiency gains are too strong to continue recommending the 8 Gen 1 in early 2024. We even see the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 on the newer Galaxy S24 series, and so the 8 Gen 1 looks far behind us.

samsung galaxy s23 fe with galaxy buds fe
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Unless you absolutely need to buy a Samsung device only, there are other options you should explore. Samsung’s own Galaxy A54 5G ($449.99 at Samsung) lets you save some more money and makes fair compromises, while Google’s upcoming Pixel 8 is worth watching for if your budget is flexible. And if your budget is relaxed, the Galaxy S23 ($799 at Amazon) should be on your radar for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor alone, especially if you can find it on sale. Even the new OnePlus 12R ($599.99 at Amazon) is a good choice at this price tag.

Do you think the Galaxy S23 FE is a good upgrade over the Galaxy S21 FE?

203 votes

If you are an existing Galaxy S21 FE user who wants to upgrade to a Samsung device, the Galaxy S23 FE is a good choice. But be aware of the generational upgrades of performance and efficiency that you are missing out on due to the older processor. The Galaxy S23 FE is a good device, but it’s not quite a home run.

See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: FAQ

Yes, both the phones are IP68 water and dust resistant. They are not completely waterproof, though, but can survive submersion 1.5m deep in fresh water for up to 30 minutes.

The Galaxy S21 FE measures 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm. The Galaxy S23 FE measures 157.9 x 76.5 x 8.1mm.

No, neither phone has a SIM card slot. You only get internal storage on both phones.

Yes, both phones support 15W wireless charging. They also support 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

No, neither phone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Galaxy S21 FE supports dual physical SIM cards in the US but does not support eSIM. The Galaxy S23 FE supports dual physical SIM cards and eSIM (maximum of two active SIMs) in some regions, so we recommend checking in with your local Samsung authorized store for confirmation.

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