Which Budget Flagship Is Better?


The OnePlus 10R is for those who want an affordable flagship phone, but another alternative is the Galaxy S21 FE. Here is how both compare.

The OnePlus 10R entry-level flagship is for those who want a flagship phone that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, but an alternative is the Galaxy S21 FE. So how do these two phones compare? With flagship phones nearing and even crossing the $1000 mark these days, there is a market for affordable premium smartphones. A few manufacturers already cater to this market segment by launching cheaper versions of their high-end models. These phones primarily have the same performance as their more expensive siblings but also come with some tradeoffs to keep the price tag low.

Samsung’s first Galaxy FE smartphone was the Korea-exclusive Galaxy Note FE. The phone was based on the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 that was recalled due to safety issues. Then in 2020, Samsung announced the Galaxy S20 FE, the first globally-available Fan Edition smartphone that was a cheaper version of the Galaxy S20. It followed it up with the Galaxy S21 FE in Jan. 2022, based on the Galaxy S21 series.


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Both OnePlus and Samsung have adopted the same choice of materials for their budget flagships. Buyers will find glass on the front and plastic on the back of either phone. However, while the Galaxy S21 FE opts for a curved aluminum frame and adds water- and dust resistance (IP68), the OnePlus 10R has a flat plastic frame and lacks any ingress protection. Despite a strikingly different rear design, the OnePlus 10R and Galaxy S21 FE both have a centered punch hole in their displays. The former is available in Sierra Black and Forest Green, while the Galaxy S211 FE can be purchased in White, Graphite, Lavender and Olive.

Both Phones Have 120Hz AMOLED Displays

Image Courtesy: OnePlus

The OnePlus 10R is the bigger phone with its 6.7-inch AMOLED display with an FHD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate and Gorilla Glass 5 protection. On the other hand, the Galaxy S21 FE has a smaller 6.4-inch AMOLED screen and an FHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate but uses the stronger Gorilla Glass Victus for protection against drops and scratches. Under the hood of the OnePlus 10R is the MediaTek Dimensity 8100-MAX processor, which has a very similar performance to the Snapdragon 888 processor inside the Galaxy S21 FE. Samsung offers its phone in 6GB or 8GB RAM versions with either 128GB or 256GB of non-expandable storage. The OnePlus 10R has up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It also lacks a MicroSD card slot.

Cameras are one of the tradeoffs manufacturers make to keep these affordable phones cheap, and it is evident in both the S21 FE and OnePlus 10R. The former has a 12MP f/1.8 primary camera with OIS, an 8MP telephoto camera for 3x optical zoom with OIS, and a 12MP 123-degree ultrawide angle camera. In contrast, the OnePlus 10R is equipped with a 50MP f/1.8 primary camera, an 8MP 120-degree ultrawide angle camera, and a 2MP macro camera. It also has a 16MP front-facing camera, whereas the Galaxy S21 FE packs a 32MP sensor in front. In addition, the two phones have an under-display fingerprint scanner, stereo speakers, NFC, and WiFi 6 but are missing an audio jack. In terms of battery capacity, the Galaxy S21 FE has a 4500mAh battery that supports up to 25W fast wired charging and 15W wireless charging.

The OnePlus 10R’s battery capacity isn’t as straightforward. There is an Endurance edition with a 4500mAh battery that supports a whopping 150W fast charging, while the standard version has a bigger 5000mAh battery but can only charge at up to 80W. Neither variant supports wireless charging but they ship with a charger that matches their respective power ratings. That isn’t the case with the Galaxy S21 FE, as owners will have to provide their own charger. Both Samsung and OnePlus ship their phones with Android 12 out of the box. Samsung flagship phones, including the Galaxy S21 FE, will receive four OS upgrades and five years of security updates while OnePlus has promised the OnePlus 10R will receive three OS upgrades and four years of security updates.

There is no doubt both phones pack impressive features such as high refresh rate displays, powerful processors, and reasonably large batteries. However, the OnePlus 10R has the advantage of a higher-res primary camera, faster charging and an included power adapter. Four years of software support is also commendable. On the other hand, the Galaxy S21 FE has a better build with its metal frame and IP68 rating. Furthermore, its cameras are better overall, there is support for wireless charging, and it has more extended software support. With a starting price of ₹38,999 (~$509) for the 8+128GB version, the OnePlus 10R is cheaper than the Galaxy S21 FE. Samsung’s phone starts at $699 for the base model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It is essential to mention that the OnePlus 10R is exclusive to India, and the base Galaxy S21 FE sold in the country has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage with a ₹54,999 (~$710) price tag.

NEXT: Galaxy A53 5G Vs Motorola Edge: Which Is The Best Phone Under $500?

Source: OnePlus, Samsung

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