Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: What’s the difference?

It’s only been a few months since the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE launched, but how does it stack up next to the Samsung Galaxy S21?

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    From $54/mth (36mths)
January 15, 2021
5 min read

Our verdict

With only a few months between the release of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the S21, the S20 FE manages to hold its own in some key comparison areas. It’s obviously the cheapest, but it also has a better selfie camera and it’s personal preference on the design front. Still, the S21 has more powerful innards, which may tempt Galaxy fans to spend the extra dollars.


In October 2020, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE handset launched with great pricing and plenty of reasons to pick one up if you were a Galaxy fan who hadn’t yet bought an S20. Fast-forward a few scant months and the Samsung Galaxy S21 line-up is already upon us.

So whether you’re looking for a case of after-the-fact buyer’s remorse or are weighing up whether you should consider the newer S21 over the more affordable S20 FE, here’s how the two fare when stacked next to each other.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Price

Purchased outright, you’re looking at spending $799 for the base 128GB Samsung Galaxy S20 FE or $1,149 for the 5G variant. Contrast that with $1,249 for the 128GB base S21 handset, which is a 5G phone (as are the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra).

If price is the be-all and end-all for you, the S20 FE is a no-brainer pick, especially if you’re only interested in buying a 4G smartphone, in which case you can pay $450 less than the new S21 handset.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Model
128GB
256GB
512GB

Galaxy S20 FE

$999

-

-

Galaxy S20 FE 5G

$1,149

-

-

Galaxy S21

$1,249

$1,349

-

Galaxy S21 Plus

$1,549

$1,649

-

Galaxy S21 Ultra

$1,849

$1,949

$2,149

Samsung Galaxy S21 plans

If you’re after Samsung’s newest handset, below is a regularly updating list of popular Postpaid plans for the Samsung Galaxy S21 128GB handset. If you're keen to check out other storage variants, the S21 Plus or S21 Ultra, simply click 'View Full Results' at the bottom of the table and adjust your handset choice there.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G plans

You have more telco options when it comes to paying off a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G 128GB handset, which includes the big three telcos as well as Woolworths Mobile and Southern Phone. You can see a daily updating list of popular plan picks below.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Specs

Scroll on if you’re after comparisons across specific meaningful categories, but before we get into that, here’s a side-by-side breakdown of comparable specs for the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S20 FE.

Specs
Galaxy S21
Galaxy S20 FE

Price (RRP)

From $1,249

From $799

Display

6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2XHDR10+

6.5-inch Infinity-O Display Super AMOLEDHDR

Resolution

1080 x 2400

2400 × 1080

Pixels-per-inch (ppi)

~421

~407

Refresh rate (max)

120Hz

120Hz

Max brightness (nits)

1300

1200

Weight

171g

190g

Battery capacity

4,000mAh

4,500mAh

Charging

Fast Charging 25WUSB Power Delivery 3.015W Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging4.5W Reverse wireless charging

Super Fast ChargingFast Wireless charging 2.0Wireless PowerShare

Front (selfie) camera

10MPDual video callAuto HDR4K up to 60fps1080p @ 30fps

32MP

Rear cameras

Ultra-wide camera (12MP, 120°, F2.2)Wide-angle camera (Dual Pixel 12MP, F1.8)Telephoto camera (64MP, F2.0)

Ultra-wide camera (12MP, Aperture: F2.2)Wide-angle camera (12MP Dual Pixel AF, OIS, Aperture: F1.8)Telephoto camera (8MP, Aperture: F2.4)

Camera features

LED flashAuto HDRPanorama

Space Zoom (up to 30x super-resolution zoom)3x optical zoomOptical Image Stablisation

Video recording

8K @ 30fps4K up to 60fps1080p up to 120fps720 @ 960fpsHDR10+Stereo sound rec.

4K up to 60fps1080p up to 240fpsHDRDolby Vision HDRStereo sound rec.

Memory (RAM)

8GB RAM

8GB RAM

Internal storage

128GB256GB

128GB

Expandable storage

No

MicroSD (up to 1TB)

Processor

Exynos 2100

Exynos 990

Operating System

Android 11One UI 3.1

Android 10One UI 2.5

Network

5G

4G

Wireless

WiFi 6Bluetooth 5.1

WiFi 6Bluetooth 5.0

Water and dust resistance

IP68 (up to 1.5m for 30 min)

IP68 (up to 1.5m for 30 min)

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Camera

This is an interesting comparison because it will depend on which camera you prefer. If you’re a fan of taking selfies and video chat, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the clear winner with its 32MP front camera (10MP on the S21) and ability to record 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second (fps).

Flip the handsets over, however, and while two of the three triple-camera configurations are identical, the 64MP telephoto camera on the S21 is eight times the resolution of the 8MP equivalent on the S20 FE. Similarly, the S21 can record 8K footage at up to 30fps, whereas the S20 FE taps out at 4K, 60fps.

Draw

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Design

If colour choices are your jam, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the clear winner with its six picks versus the S21’s four. Both handsets favour a vertical rear camera stack, while there are some differences on the front. The S20 favours the recent trend of a 2.5D screen that curves on the edges to effectively eliminate the front-facing bezel.

The S21, on the other hand, opts for a flat screen, which means the bezel feels thicker in comparison (but mostly because it has a noticeable one). For looks, this means it’s down to personal preference of whether you prefer flat or 2.5D. In terms of weight, the S21 has a slight edge with smaller, thinner dimensions and lighter weight, but that’s because of the smaller screen.

Draw

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Display

This is another close comparison category. Both the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S20 FE boast AMOLED screens with 120Hz refresh rates and 1080x2400 resolutions, though the S21’s AMOLED screen is newer and has better colour. If you prefer a slightly larger screen, the S20 FE has you covered with its 6.5-inch display versus the S21’s 6.2-inch screen. The catch there is because the resolution is the same; expect on-screen items to have that ever-so-slight crispness on the S21.

In terms of screen brightness, the S21 blows the S20 FE out of the water with max brightness of 1,300, while the S20 FE taps out at 679. The extra brightness helps counter the glossy display that makes things trickier to see in bright environments, meanwhile Eye Comfort Shield intuitively adjusts the screen’s blue light based on a variety of factors to make for easier viewing.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Performance

You can expect noticeably better performance from the Samsung Galaxy S21 in comparison to the S20 FE. While they both have the same 8GB of RAM, the S21 boasts a newer Samsung Exynos 2100 processor compared to the older Exynos 990 processor inside the S20 FE. Both are eight-core processors, but the Exynos 2100 fares better in performance across everyday and intensive tasks (like gaming).

By default, the S21 is a 5G handset, whereas you have to pay extra for the S20 FE 5G model, and while both support WiFi 6, the S21 has the latest Bluetooth 5.1 standard (instead of Bluetooth 5.0 in the S20 FE). It’s worth noting that while both handsets have 128GB and 256GB variants, the S20 FE has a MicroSD port for up to 1TB storage expansion, whereas the S21 doesn’t have expandable storage.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 FE: Battery life

While the newer Exynos 2100 processor inside the Samsung Galaxy S21 boasts around 17 percent battery efficiency compared to the Exynos 990 inside the S20 FE, the older handset is still likely to have better battery life. Why? It has a 4,500mAh battery compared to the 4,000mAh battery inside the S21.

Should the rumours prove true, the S21 is the first Galaxy series to ship without a wall charger (though you can purchase one separately), which may be the new trend started by Apple with the iPhone 12, but it definitely leaves a bad taste in the mouth for those wanting an all-inclusive solution out of the box.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

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

With draws in a couple of key categories, it really depends on what you’re after, with no handset clearly dominating the other. For pure performance, opt for the Samsung Galaxy S21. If you want a mix of budget and battery considerations, gun for the S20 FE. For photographers and videographers, it depends on whether you prefer the selfie or back camera: for the former, stick with the S20 FE; for the latter, go with the S21.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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