The Samsung Galaxy S21 series not only sets the tone for 2021 but takes on some late 2020 releases as well. With Samsung’s pricing strategy, one of these competing devices is its own affordable flagship, the Galaxy S20 FE. How does Samsung’s fan-favorite phone compare to its latest flagship trio? Find out in this Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 FE comparison!


Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 FE


Specs

Samsung Galaxy S20 FESamsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21 PlusSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Display
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
6.5-inch flat Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080) resolution
407ppi
120Hz refresh rate
HDR 10+
Samsung Galaxy S21:
6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 421ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Flat FHD+
2,400 x 1,080 at 394ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Curved WQHD+
3,200 x 1,440 at 515ppi
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Processor
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
5G models:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
4G models:
Samsung Exynos 990
Samsung Galaxy S21:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Samsung Exynos 2100
RAM
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
6GB
Samsung Galaxy S21:
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
8GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
12 or 16GB
Storage
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21:
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
128 or 256GB
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
128, 256, or 512GB
MicroSD
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
Yes
Samsung Galaxy S21:
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
No
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
No
Battery
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
4,500mAh battery
15W wired charging (in-box adapter)
25W wired charging (add'l adapter needed)
15W wireless charging
Wireless PowerShare
Samsung Galaxy S21:
4,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
4,800mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
5,000mAh
Fast wired and wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
Cameras
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
Rear:
12MP wide-angle
Dual-Pixel, OIS
ƒ1.8, 1/1.76in, 1.8μm
12MP ultra-wide
ƒ2.2, 1/3.06in, 1.12μm
8MP telephoto
3x optical zoom, OIS
30x digital "Space Zoom"
ƒ2.4, 1/4.4in, 1.0μm
Front:
32MP (binned to 8MP)
ƒ2.2, 1/2.8in, 0.8μm
Samsung Galaxy S21:
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
- Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV
3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x "Space Zoom"
Front:
- 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.8µm with OIS and dual-pixel AF
- Telephoto: 64MP, ƒ/2.0, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with 120-degree FoV
3x hybrid optical/digital zoom
30x "Space Zoom"
Front:
- 10MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22µm, with dual-pixel AF
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
Rear:
- Wide-angle: 108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8µm with OIS and phase-detection AF
- Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 3x optical zoom
- Telephoto: 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.22µm with OIS, dual-pixel AF, and 10x optical zoom
- Ultra-wide: 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4µm with dual-pixel AF and a 120-degree FoV
- Laser AF sensor
10x optical zoom
100x "Space Zoom"
Front:
- 40MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.7µm, with phase-detection AF
Connectivity
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Samsung Galaxy S21:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
4G LTE support
5G (sub-6GHz, SA and NSA, mmWave)
Wi-Fi 6E support
Operating System
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
One UI 3.1
Android 11
Water resistance
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21:
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
IP68
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
IP68
Color
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
Cloud Navy, Cloud Red, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud White, Cloud Orange
Samsung Galaxy S21:
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White
256GB only in Phantom Gray
Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
128GB in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black
256GB only in Phantom Black
Future colors: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
128 GB in Phantom Silver and Phantom Black
256 and 512GB in Phantom Black
Future colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, and Phantom Brown
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE:
159.8 x 74.5 x 8.4mm
190g
Samsung Galaxy S21:
151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm
171g
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus:
161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm
202g
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:
165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
229g

Design

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galay S20 FE 1
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Samsung has kept the general design language of its recent flagships with the Galaxy S21 series. The camera housing has been overhauled, however, and the “Contour Cut” look is a much-needed improvement. There’s a noticeable camera bump, but it looks sleeker and seems to flow better. It stands out especially if you opt for an option that offers contrasting colors.

The standard Galaxy S21 comes with the same “glasstic” body that you also get with the Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy S20 FE. However, you can’t really tell the difference between the S21 and its more expensive siblings at first glance, and it is potentially more durable as well. You’ll have to get the Plus and Ultra iterations for an all-Gorilla Glass Victus build.

Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy S21 series — cheaper, but are they better?

The Galaxy S20 FE, unsurprisingly, keeps the design of the S20 series. You get the same camera bump on the back and squared-off corners, but with the same glasstic body as the regular Galaxy S21. Even though both the S20 FE and S21 have similar builds, the latter looks a little more refined.

Samsung introduced a few interesting colorways to appeal to a younger generation with the S20 FE, such as a bright red shade, lavender, and orange. The Galaxy S21 series isn’t far behind though, with the Phantom Violet colorway a standout.

Features

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 4
Adam Molina / Android Authority

You’ll get flat, Full HD+, AMOLED displays with 120Hz refresh rates with the Galaxy S20 FE, S21, and S21 Plus. The only difference between the three is the size of the screen. On the other hand, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a much larger curved display with a QHD+ resolution.

Each member of the Galaxy S21 family packs the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. On a more general level, the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus offer very similar hardware across the board. Both feature 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, and identical camera setups. The Galaxy S21 Ultra kicks things up a notch though, with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage available. The Ultra is also the first Galaxy S device to offer S Pen support. It doesn’t have a built-in slot for the stylus and you’ll have to buy one separately, but it’s nevertheless a significant addition.

One of the biggest selling points of the Galaxy S20 FE is that it’s powered by the Snapdragon 865, the 2020 flagship processor of choice, backed by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That’s a lot of power for a sub-$700 phone. The Galaxy S20 FE also supports storage expansion via microSD. That’s something you don’t get with any Galaxy S21 device.

See also: Which Samsung Galaxy S21 phone is right for you?

The Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra come with 4,000mAh, 4,800mAh, and 5,000mAh batteries, respectively. The Galaxy S20 FE falls in the middle of the pack with its 4,500mAh unit. In his review, our own Eric Zeman enjoyed around seven hours of screen-on time with the FE, with the phone comfortably lasting more than a day.

The Galaxy S21 devices also offer exceptional battery life, with the phones comfortably providing more than a day of use, and even longer with the S21 Ultra. Even with the comparatively smaller battery, the S21 offers around 8.2 hours of screen-on time.

Additionally, all four devices come with high-end staples like an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, fast charging, and wireless charging. You can also use them to charge other phones and peripherals, like smartwatches and wireless earbuds, with their reverse wireless charging feature.

On the camera side of things, the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus come with a 12MP wide-angle lens, a 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, and a 64MP telephoto lens. The Galaxy S21 Ultra goes plenty of steps further once again. It bumps the primary telephoto to 108MP and tacks on a second 10MP telephoto as well.

Unsurprisingly, the phones can shoot excellent photos and videos. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the most versatile of the lot and its 108MP telephoto lens is truly impressive. The cameras run into usual issues with low-light photography, but that’s true for most phones. Overall, these are among the best camera phones around.

The one area where the Galaxy S20 FE doesn’t impress as much is the camera. The 12MP wide-angle lens, 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, and 8MP telephoto setup can deliver good-looking photos in the right lighting conditions but have issues in other situations. It’s not a bad camera by any stretch, but it’s not as good as Samsung’s flagships are known to be.

Price

  • Samsung Galaxy S21: $799/€849/£769
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: $999/€1,049/£949
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: $1,199/€1,249/£1,149
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: $699/£699/€759

The Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra start at $799, $999, and $1,199, respectively. On the other hand, you can get the Galaxy S20 FE for $699. In Europe, you can also pick up a 4G-only version of the phone for £100/€100 less than the 5G variant.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Back side
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
All the best features of the Galaxy S20 series at a lower price
If you don't mind cutting a few corners, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (which stands for "Fan Edition") might be the phone you are looking for. It offers most of the flagship specs and features of the Galaxy S20 family but trims things down to keep the price low.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 FE: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galay S20 FE 2
Adam Molina / Android Authority

If you want a true, all-powerful flagship, it won’t get much better than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The S21 Plus, on the other hand, is a great option for anyone that prefers a large screen. However, it’s otherwise identical to its smaller sibling. The real competition here is between the regular Galaxy S21 and the S20 FE and the former’s price point might be a game-changer.

The Galaxy S21 is $200 cheaper than the starting price of the S20 at launch, and it costs only $100 more than the Galaxy S20 FE. The surcharge gives you the latest processing package, more RAM, and better cameras. Granted, the Galaxy S20 FE is likely to receive heavy discounts in the coming weeks and months. For now, however, the Galaxy S21 offers more bang for your buck until the inevitable Galaxy S21 FE hits the market.