Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Which Samsung phone is best for you?

Who comes out on top in our Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE guide?

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
(Image credit: Samsung)

Welcome to T3’s Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE guide, where we’ll be talking you through the pros and cons of two of the best Android phones. Here, we’ve got the cheapest version of the latest and greatest Samsung S21 line going up against the S20’s most recent update, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

As you’d expect, they’re some of the best Samsung phones, but when it comes down to their specs, cameras, features, battery and design, which one is going to suit you best?

Hopefully, we can help you make that decision, but if you want even more information about our experience with each one, you can take a deeper dive with our Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review and you can check out this video review for the Samsung Galaxy S21 range.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Design & Screen

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21.

(Image credit: Samsung)

When you first look at the Galaxy S21 up against the S20 FE, it’s actually not that easy to tell them apart, such is Samsung’s commitment to their brand aesthetic. There are a few key differences when you look closer.

For a start, the Galaxy S20 FE is the larger phone, sitting at 6.5-inches over the Galaxy S21’s 6.2-inches. As you’d expect, that also makes the S20 FE the heavier phone of the two. The main difference in design is their rear cameras, with the S21’s camera contouring to the edge of the phone, rather than the S20 FE’s more indented look.

Both phones have plastic backs, rather than the more premium glass you’ll find in the more expensive models you’ll find in the Galaxy S20/S21 ranges, while they also trade away a curved screen for a flat one. These choices make the phones cheaper, and while you might miss those ultra-premium features, they don’t compromise these Samsung phones' performance.

When it comes to their displays, there’s really not much between them. Both have quality 2400x1080 AMOLED screens and run at up to 120Hz. The Galaxy S21 will switch naturally between 48Hz and 120Hz as and when it needs to (which helps to save power), and the Galaxy S20 FE’s screen is, of course, bigger.  

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Camera & Battery

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

(Image credit: Samsung)

The main difference in the cameras is between their respective telephoto and front-facing lenses. Outside of that, they both have 12MP wide-angle (f/1.8) and 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) lenses.

The Galaxy S21’s 64 MP rear telephoto lens features an 3x optical zoom and an 30x digital zoom. The S20 FE has the same zoom capabilities, but with an 8MP lens. Conversely, the S20 FE features a 32MP selfie camera, up against the 10MP of the Galaxy S21.

In practice, that means you should expect better long-range shots from the S21, while software improvements for image processing mitigate the MP difference in selfie cams. Though the S20 FE’s font-facing lens is wide-angle, so it’s probably the better option if you like to get your mates in the picture.

On batteries, you’d expect both to get through a full workday. But those 120Hz refresh rates might leave you reaching for the charger come the evening. The Galaxy S20 FE’s battery is bigger at 4,500mAh (vs the S21s 4,000mAh), but that doesn’t seem to separate them by much – we imagine the variable refresh rate on the S21 might be helping to make up the difference here, along with its newer and more efficient processor.

Both phones support fast charging, wireless charging and reverse wireless charging (charging your Bluetooth headphones, for example).   

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Specs & Performance

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21.

(Image credit: Samsung)

On to the hardware, so far there’s not a huge gulf between these Samsungs, but being the newer phone, the S21 does take the edge here.

Mainly it’s down to the processor. The Galaxy S21 is home to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which is a newer and faster chip than the Snapdragon 865 powering the Galaxy S20 FE. While the S21 also steps in front with 8GB of RAM compared to the 6GB of the S20 FE.

Both phones come with 128GB of storage as standard, though you can upgrade the Samsung Galaxy S21 to 256GB. Both phones are also 5G capable.

All of this means that the Galaxy S21 is the faster phone. Both these smartphones can handle pretty much anything you throw at them, but if you want the speediest handset, that's the newer model.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Price & Verdict

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

(Image credit: Samsung)

Lastly then, it’s the price. The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the more expensive of the two phones, with a difference of roughly £60/$100. That isn’t a great deal in terms of smartphones of (slightly) different generations, especially if you're paying monthly. You can see the latest offers and prices on both phones below.

These are two of the best Android phones, and while it feels obvious to say that the Galaxy S21, being the faster and more powerful device, should be a little more future-proofed than the S20 FE, much of the experience and most of the features of these phones are the same right now.

If you want the fastest Samsung phone in this price range, or that 32MP telephoto lens makes the difference for you, then go for the Galaxy S21. But for a lot of people, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE will offer the better deal.