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In case you haven’t heard, Samsung has returned with the Galaxy S22 series earlier this week. A lot of attention has been towards the Galaxy S22 Ultra in particular, and with good reason too; the Galaxy S22 Ultra is pretty much a new Galaxy Note in everything but name. It moved away from the typical Galaxy S design philosophy and instead adopts the industrial look of the Note, complete with an S Pen too.
But what about the phone that actually carries the name of the series, you know, the Galaxy S22 itself? Both on paper and from first impressions, there’s not too much in terms of changes from the last generation other than the expected upgrades under the hood and what not. It’s a simple flagship that does the job at a lower price compared to its siblings, but how does it stack up against the Galaxy S21 FE, a smartphone that Samsung launched just a month prior?
The Galaxy S21 FE came about at the start of this year, and is pretty much the ‘affordable’ version of last year’s Galaxy S21. It’s still offers a flagship-like experience as it’s powered by the same chip under the hood of the Galaxy S21, but is priced below its more premium cousins. Seeing as the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S22 both released barely a month away from each other, we guess that leads to the question: Which one should you be getting then?
Right off the bat, there’s honestly not much difference in design between the two. You’re getting a very standard Samsung look, with a flat body and back for both phones as well as the almost iconic raised camera bump along the corner housing the linear triple rear camera setup. However, while they mostly look the same, there’s actually a very important difference between the two in terms of feeling.
The Galaxy S21 FE continues in the same design philosophy as that of the original Galaxy S21, with the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and a polycarbonate ‘Glasstic’ back. Even the camera bump is made of the same polycarbonate material.
However, Samsung has stepped up the game again by using real, proper glass. This time round the entire Galaxy S22 series is kitted out with the new Corning Gorilla Glass Victus Plus on both the front and the back of the phone for better resistance against drops and scratches. You also get the aluminum finish on the camera module.
But the improved build quality also means that it now feels much, much more premium in the hand. The fit and finish of the Galaxy S21 FE meanwhile feels more along the lines of one of Samsung’s midrange devices from the Galaxy A series instead. However, the Galaxy S22 doesn’t have the heft typically associated with premium smartphones as it’s lighter than the Galaxy S21 FE at 168g, compared to the Galaxy S21 FE’s 177g. There’s a reason for that though, which revolves around the display and size of the phone.
The Galaxy S21 FE claims it’s first win here in the battle against the Galaxy S22—well if you like a bigger display that is. Samsung has kitted out the Galaxy S21 FE with a 6.4-inch, FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a peak brightness of 1200nits, while the newer Galaxy S22 only gets a 6.1-inch, FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a peak brightness of 1300nits. Of course, if you’re a fan of more compact phones you might see the Galaxy S22 as the better option here.
Generally speaking though, both displays are very solid on the spec sheet, though the Galaxy S22 has a slight advantage in terms of peak brightness and a new feature called Vision Booster. Put very simply, Vision Booster checks the user’s surrounding area for the light intensity around them, and tweaks each pixel on the display to fit the ambient light. If it’s very bright and sunny for instance, Vision Booster will increase the brightness of the display high enough to get rid of the annoying glare that you often get when using your smartphone outdoors. Vision Booster also works by tweaking the contrast of the display, improving visibility.
If all you care is performance and performance alone, then you’d almost definitely want to get the Galaxy S22 over the Galaxy S21 FE. It’s the first smartphone to be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that’s officially available in Malaysia, and as the latest and greatest mobile processor should outperform the Galaxy S21 FE’s Exynos 2100. Both phones come with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage.
However, there’s more to using a phone than just pure performance numbers. One key win the Galaxy S21 FE has over the Galaxy S22 is that the Fan Edition device comes with a 4,500mAh battery, while the newer phone only has a paltry 3,700mAh battery. The Galaxy S22 also doesn’t get the improved 45W fast charging its bigger brothers have either, as both phones are limited to 25W fast charging only. It should be noted though that the Galaxy S22 will come with a 4nm processor that on paper is more efficient than the Galaxy S21 FE which could make up for some of that lost battery capacity, plus the fact that the smaller screen could use less power too.
As for the cameras, it’s a near outright win for the Galaxy S22—on paper at least. You’re looking at a triple camera setup on both devices, with the Galaxy S22 packing a 50MP main shooter, a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a 10MP telephoto lens as well for up to 3x zoom. As for the Galaxy S21 FE, it has a lower resolution 12MP main camera flanked by a 12MP ultra-wide lens and an 8MP telephoto camera also with 3x optical zoom.
Together with the work Samsung has done internally on the cameras, the Galaxy S22 seems to have better low light performance as well as improved telephoto shots over the Galaxy S21 FE. That’s not to say that the Galaxy S21 FE isn’t a good smartphone camera of course, but rather a testament to how much better the Galaxy S22 is. The Galaxy S21 FE does on paper have a better selfie camera though, with its 32MP front camera compared to the Galaxy S22’s 10MP selfie shooter.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky to fully pick between the Galaxy S21 FE or the Galaxy S22. The base model of the Galaxy S21 FE costs RM2,899, which is a not insignificant RM600 less than the Galaxy S22’s starting price of RM3,499. I mean sure, there’s other Android flagships to get at below RM3,000, but you’d be surprised at just how many people fall into both the ‘no iPhones’ and ‘no Xiaomi/Huawei/Oppo/Vivo’ camp when it comes to buying smartphones.
But realistically, for just RM600, you’ll be getting a much more performant device. And if you were already going to spend almost RM3,000 on a smartphone, topping up that RM600 to get the Galaxy S22 might be a good option. However, there are valid reasons still to get the Galaxy S21 FE of course, such as the larger display and bigger battery. You could also just be wanting to stay within your budget and go for the cheaper yet still capable smartphone.
Here’s where we’ll go for a bit of a tangent though. There’s actually still a challenger to both the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S22, called the Galaxy S20 FE. Yes, we know, it’s a smartphone from late 2020, but that’s not to say that it’s not a good smartphone. You’re getting a fairly premium build, with solid specs under the hood such as the Snapdragon 865, 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. It also has an even bigger display, with a 6.5-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display pushing a 120Hz refresh rate, while the 4,500mAh battery keeps everything lit up.
The best part about the Galaxy S20 FE though is its price. If you’re determined for the best bang for the buck Samsung flagship, it’s hard to avoid the Galaxy S20 FE which, at time of writing, starts at just RM1,700 on the official Samsung Malaysia online store for the 4G-only model with 128GB of storage. The higher spec 5G-capable model with 256GB of storage meanwhile goes for RM2,129, which again considering the phone you’re getting isn’t that bad of an option. We do want to point out though that while the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 FE get up to four major Android OS upgrades and five years of security updates, the Galaxy S20 FE will still be limited to just three OS upgrades, culminating in Android 14 when it comes around.
At the end of the day, the choice is still up to you though, and the key as with any major purchase is to ensure that it fits your wants, needs and your budget accordingly. Let us know which device you’ll be picking for yourself down in the comments below!