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- Samsung’s Galaxy S22 and S21 FE are similar phones, but the S22 is a better buy for just $100 more.
- The Galaxy S21 FE needs to be significantly cheaper than the Galaxy S22 to recommend.
- If you can get the S21 FE with a good discount or trade-in value, it remains a good phone overall.
Now that Samsung has launched its new premium Galaxy S22 series of phones, the company has altogether ditched last year’s flagship Galaxy S21 lineup.
That said, one S21 model does remain in this year’s collection: the recently released Galaxy S21 FE. Launched in January 2022, the S21 FE is Samsung’s value-premium offering of 2022 designed to offer high-end specs and performance for $100 less than the S22.
The Galaxy S21 FE is based on last year’s S21 phones, so it runs on the top processor of 2021 while offering premium features like a triple-lens camera and a 120Hz screen. Though those are solid specs, the S21 FE simply isn’t cheap enough to really earn a recommendation over the newer S22. For $100 more, I think most people will be better off with the S22’s more advanced specs.
Below, I broke down all the key differences between the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE and Galaxy S22:
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 specifications
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE vs. Galaxy S22 — what’s different?
The major differences between the Galaxy S21 FE and S22 lie in their processors, screen size, batteries, and cameras. The biggest difference you’ll likely notice is the battery life — the Galaxy S21 FE scored poorly in our battery test. Meanwhile, I expect the Galaxy S22 to score a lot better.
I suspect the Galaxy S21 FE’s poor battery stems from its screen, which has a fixed refresh rate of either 120Hz or 60Hz. The 120Hz refresh rate is a premium feature that makes animations look smooth, and it goes a long way toward making the phone feel more powerful. However, it uses up a lot of battery power.
Samsung and other phone makers compensate for this battery drain by giving some of their phones adaptive refresh rates. This reduces power consumption by lowering the refresh rate when the screen is displaying a static image. The Galaxy S21 FE only has a fixed refresh rate, but the S22 has an adaptive one.
To be clear, I haven’t tested the Galaxy S22’s battery life yet, but I know for a fact that adaptive refresh rates lead to better battery life — all the phones I’ve reviewed with adaptive refresh rates, like the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13 Pro, scored significantly higher in our battery test than the Galaxy S21 FE.
As for the rest, differences will be harder to perceive. The Galaxy S21 FE’s Snapdragon 888 processor is only a year old and has plenty of life left in it. Plus, I have yet to test the Galaxy S22’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. While I’m certain it’ll have better performance, it shouldn’t be a dramatic improvement.
The cameras are also refreshed in the Galaxy S22, with a 50-megapixel main camera versus 12-megapixels in the S21, but the difference shouldn’t be too noticeable. I’ll have to confirm this with further testing.
And finally, the other big difference is screen size, where the Galaxy S21 FE has a bigger screen. This could be a pro or con, depending on your preferences.
Otherwise, both phones have very similar designs.
Should you buy the Galaxy S21 FE or Galaxy S22?
In most cases, it’s just not worth buying the $700 Galaxy S21 FE instead of the $800 Galaxy S22. An extra discount or trade-in offer could make the S21 FE more appealing, but only in certain instances.
If the Galaxy S21 FE is only $100 less than the Galaxy S22 even after a trade-in, I’d say pass and buy the Galaxy S22 for the latest specs and features. If you’re saving over $100, however, then the Galaxy S21 FE has a much stronger case.
If your trade-in value isn’t very good because your current phone is damaged or on the older side, check if you can get a better deal with a discount. Best Buy is currently discounting the Galaxy S21 FE down to $500, which makes the phone a lot more tempting and easier to recommend if your trade-in value isn’t better.
Still, $100 saved is $100 in your pocket. And the Galaxy S21 FE will get three versions of Android, and four years of security updates, just like the Galaxy S22.
To be clear, I haven’t tested the Galaxy S22 yet, but Samsung consistently releases excellent premium phones year after year, and my eight years reviewing phones lets me be confident in saying that the S22 will be a superior phone to the Galaxy S21 FE.
Is Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE any good?
I wasn’t overly smitten by Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE — it’s based on last year’s premium Galaxy S21 specs, and it’s not quite as good as the original Galaxy S21. Battery life was especially poor. It’s still a good phone overall, but there are better options. You can read the Galaxy S21 FE review here.
In the value-premium range, I’d rather recommend Google’s cheaper Pixel 6. It comes with a bolder design, better quality cameras, and significantly better battery life. It doesn’t have a zoom lens like the S21 FE, however, so take that into consideration.