- Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23 FEAn FE done right
The Galaxy S23 FE sees Samsung going back to its roots, giving its fans an S23-style phone as a more attractive price point. Samsung had to cut some corners to get down to the $600 price point, but the device is solid overall.Pros
- More capable camera system
- Same great software support
- Same overall design as its more expensive siblings
- Chipset choice could have been better
- Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back
Samsung Galaxy S21 FEStill good enough
The Galaxy S21 FE from Samsung was a bit of a letdown for fans of the original. It launched too close to the Galaxy S22, and with a retail cost of almost $700, it was too close in price as well. Almost two years later, the device isn't that much different than the Galaxy S23 FE.Pros
- Still has a great display
- Years of software support left
- Design is still modern
- Lackluster camera setup
- 6GB of RAM is a bit low
When Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 FE in 2020, it blended the best parts of its flagship devices in a more affordable package. While the device made some compromises to get to that $600 price point, it quickly became one of the best affordable Android phones on the market and a fan favorite. When Samsung launched its follow-up, the Galaxy S21 FE, it stumbled out of the gate with its $100 price increase and a delayed launch. This made it shockingly close in price to the superior Galaxy S22 and didn’t offer the same value proposition as its predecessor.
Almost two years later, Samsung has brought back the once highly touted FE line with the launch of the Galaxy S23 FE. Is the S23 FE doomed to the same fate as the S21 FE? We've pitted these two devices against each other to determine exactly that.
Price, availability, and specs
The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE officially launched on October 26 2023, with a starting price of $600, and it's available at all major US carriers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. If you want to avoid going to a carrier, you should be able to find this device through Samsung, Amazon, and Best Buy as well.
The Galaxy S21 FE launched on January 7 2022, with a starting price of $700. It's now a little harder to find new, and is often now also sold at $600. With the two devices essentially the same price, the Galaxy S23 FE is already off to a strong start.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Samsung Galaxy S21 FE SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US), Exynos 2200 (worldwide) Snapdragon 888 RAM 8GB 6GB or 8GB Storage 128GB, 256GB 128GB or 256GB Battery 4500mAh 4500mAh Operating System Android 13 and One UI 5.1 Android 12 and One UI 4.0 Colors Mint, Purple, Cream, Graphite White, Graphite, Olive, Lavender Price $600 Starting at $700 Ports USB-C USB-C Front camera 10MP f/2.4 32MP f/2.2 Rear camera 50MP f/1.8 OIS main, 12MP f/2.2 wide (123°), 8MP f/2.4 zoom (3x) 12MP f/1.8 OIS, 12MP f/2.2 wide (123°), 8MP f/2.4 OIS zoom (3x) Dimensions 158 x 76.5 x 8.2mm 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm Display type Dynamic AMOLED, 60-120Hz AMOLED, 120Hz Weight 209g 177g Charge speed 25W wired, 15W wireless 25W Wired, 15W Wireless IP Rating IP68 IP68 Display dimensions 6.4" 6.4" Display resolution 2340 x 1080 2340 x 1080 Cellular connectivity 5G 5G Wi-Fi connectivity Wi-Fi 6E Wi-Fi 6E Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.3 Bluetooth 5.0
Samsung typically designs the FE line to be almost a mirror image of its flagship counterparts. For example, it's difficult to spot the differences between a standard Galaxy S23 and the Galaxy S23 FE. The same is true for the Galaxy S21 and the Galaxy S21 FE. This also means that these two devices share a very similar design and feel. The front and sides of both devices are the same. The front is dominated by its display, except for its hole-punch front-facing camera, and you can find the power and volume buttons on the right-hand side of the device. Both of these devices also have the same aluminum frame.
The biggest difference can be found on the back. Both devices sport a triple camera setup, but the S23 FE lets each lens sit individually, slightly protruding from the back. The S21 FE places its lenses in a raised rectangle, making the lenses flush with that spot on the phone. The Galaxy S23 FE also sports a Gorilla Glass 5-covered back, while the S21 FE features a plastic back.
The Galaxy S23 FE measures 158 x 76.5 x 8.2mm and weighs 209g. In addition, it's available in Mint, Purple, Cream, and Graphite colorways. In comparison, the S21 FE is slightly smaller at 155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9mm and weighs only 177g. It was available in White, Graphite, Olive, and Lavender. Both devices have an under-display fingerprint reader and are IP68-rated against dust and water.
The displays are also very similar on these two devices. They both feature a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2340 AMOLED display that can hit refresh rates of 120Hz, and both are HDR10+ certified. The biggest difference between these two displays isn’t the displays themselves. It’s the technology used to protect them. The Galaxy S21 FE came with Gorilla Glass Victus, which was excellent at the time and continues to be excellent today. Curiously, however, Samsung downgraded to Gorilla Glass 5 to protect the S23 FE’s display. This was likely to cut costs, but the S21 FE has the stronger glass. Otherwise, there isn’t much difference between these two devices.
These two devices also share identical software. The Galaxy S21 FE launched with Android 12 but has since been upgraded to Android 13 and One UI 5.1, which is the same version that ships with the Galaxy S23 FE. This means users can expect the same software experience between the two.
Either way, you are getting Samsung’s love-it or hate-it custom-skinned version of Android, known as One UI. With this version, you can expect brighter colors to be used throughout the menus compared to stock Android. Another reason why some people love Samsung’s One UI version of Android is because it tends to include a wide variety of features and functions that may not be available from stock Android. However, some others can’t stand Samsung’s take because it forces a lot of Samsung’s apps, which replicate many of Google’s offerings, often with inferior performance.
Samsung offers four Android OS updates and five years of security updates on both devices — the Galaxy S23 FE benefits from being newer and thus updated longer. With three OS updates left, the S21 FE still has plenty of life left.
The Galaxy S23 FE ships with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, 8GB of RAM, and either 128 or 256GB of storage. The S21 FE shipped with a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and either 128 or 256GB of storage. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset used in the S23 FE is a bit of a letdown. Even if Samsung didn’t want to ship this device with the same processor as the S23 (a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset), it should have at least gone with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset for its improved power and, more importantly, improved thermal capabilities.
As it stands, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset is faster than the Snapdragon 888, but not markedly so. Technically, the S23 FE is the stronger device, but it's not something you may notice in day-to-day use unless you push your device. Gaming will be better on the S23 FE, but the S21 FE is still quite capable. What helps is the 8GB of RAM on the S23 FE, whereas the 6GB of RAM on the S21 FE will cause more apps to refresh in the background or be forced to close when not in use.
Both the Galaxy S23 FE and the Galaxy S21 FE come with a 4500mAh battery. However, thanks to its newer and more efficient chipset, the Galaxy S23 FE should take the lead here. It’s also likely that the Galaxy S21 FE doesn’t have the same level of stamina that it once did. So, if comparing two new devices, the battery life would be similar, with the S23 FE being the slight winner. On the other hand, if your device is a few years old, the newer Galaxy S23 FE has the better battery. Both devices can be charged at 25W, which will boost your battery life by 50% in about 30 minutes. They can also be charged wirelessly.
The Galaxy S23 FE and S21 FE both share a triple-lens camera setup, but you can expect the S23 FE to pull away from its predecessor. The Galaxy S23 FE has a 50MP f/1.8 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 telephoto lens, and an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. With the 50MP main camera featuring OIS and pixel binning, images should be quite good. The S23 FE also has a 10MP f/2.4 selfie camera.
Meanwhile, the camera on the Galaxy S21 FE features inferior specs, resulting in a lower-quality overall image. It has a 12MP f/1.8 primary lens, a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens, and an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. With adequate lighting, it can get some decent shots but nothing spectacular. It also has a 32MP f/2.2 front-facing camera.
Which is right for you?
This battle doesn’t have a stand-out, clear-cut winner. Like many things in life, it's going to depend on your particular circumstances, as these two devices are more similar than different. If you are looking for a new phone today or are having issues with your Galaxy S21 FE, then definitely get the Galaxy S23 FE. It is almost two years newer, has a better processor, a more capable camera setup, and longer software support.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
An FE done right
The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE brings better performance, a stronger camera setup, and longer software support than its predecessor. Samsung had to cut a few corners to get the price down to $600 but managed to make a solid overall device.
If you already have a Galaxy S21 FE, and it is currently serving you well, then Samsung hasn’t done much to entice you to upgrade. Both of these phones have similar displays, battery life, software, and overall designs. You would only need to jump ship if you need better performance or image capabilities. Even then, at $600, it puts the Galaxy S23 FE remarkably close to some of the best Android phones on the market, which may just suit you better.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Still good enough
The Samsung Galaxy S1 FE should be avoided if buying new, but if you already have it in hand, the choice becomes a lot more difficult. The S21 FE is still a capable device with years of support left in it. This is especially true if you went with the 8GB version, as 6GB will cause too many apps to close in the background.