Samsung Galaxy S21 review: cheaper yet better bang for buck?

Samsung Galaxy S21

More than a month earlier than expected, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is shipping, and here's another exciting twist: its price is considerably cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S20. This was released last year.

The Galaxy S21 is priced $200 / £130 / AU$250 lower than the Galaxy S20 at its release merely 11 months ago. And you are also getting updates to the camera firmware, the hardware specs, and the 1.7x larger in-screen fingerprint sensor.

It's Samsung's way of rivaling Apple's entry-level iPhone, the iPhone 12 mini. With the Galaxy S21, you get a feature-packed flagship phone with a bigger 6.2-inch screen, 3x camera zoom capabilities, and a much larger battery.

The S21 lineup includes a few other models apart from the Samsung Galaxy S21. They are the much larger Galaxy S21 Plus with a 6.7-inch display and the Galaxy S21 Ultra with a 6.8-inch display. And with this new range, Samsung has gone with the slogan "Everything Epic." Yet not all the models receive the same level of epicenes in the sense of the hardware specifications.

In order to offer devices at these competitive price points. Samsung is taking away a few essentials – and there’s a good chance most people won’t miss them. The business wants you to let go of smartphone basics such as the micro SD card slot, the glass back (instead a plastic/glass composite called polycarbonate is used), and the charger inside the package.

If somehow, you are only now adapting to age without a 3.5mm headphone jack you might have a tough time accepting the new changes; but Samsung, following in Apple’s lead, is eliminating e-waste and offers chargers separately at a lower price. For instance, the polycarbonate rear panel was introduced without much trouble on the Note 20.

Specifications

BODYDimensions Weight Build SIM151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm (5.97 x 2.80 x 0.31 in) 169 g (Sub6), 171 g Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), plastic back, aluminum frame Single SIM or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM and/or eSIM, dual stand-by), IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
DISPLAYType Size Resolution ProtectionDynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1300 nits (peak) 6.2 inches, 94.1 cm2 (~87.2% screen-to-body ratio) 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~421 ppi density) Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, Always-on display
PLATFORMOS Chipset   CPU GPUAndroid 11, One UI 3.1 Exynos 2100 (5 nm) – International, Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 (5 nm) – USA/China Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55) Mali-G78 MP14, Adreno 660
MEMORYCard slot InternalNo 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM
MAIN CAMERATriple   Features Video12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76", 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 64 MP, f/2.0, 29mm (telephoto), 1/1.72", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 1.1x optical zoom, 3x hybrid zoom, 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.55" 1.4µm, Super Steady video LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama [email protected], [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
SELFIE CAMERASingle Features Video10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/3.24", 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF Dual video call, Auto-HDR [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]
SOUNDLoudspeaker 3.5mm jackYes, with stereo speakers No
COMMSWLAN Bluetooth GPS NFC USBWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot 5.0, A2DP, LE Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO Yes USB Type-C 3.2, USB On-The-Go
FEATURESSensorsFingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support) ANT+ Bixby natural language commands and dictation Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified)
BATTERYType ChargingLi-Ion 4000 mAh, non-removable Fast charging 25W USB Power Delivery 3.0 Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W Reverse wireless charging 4.5W
Taken from Gsmarena.com

Price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy S21 was unveiled on the 14th of January 2021 and released on the 29th of January 2021 globally. This was rather significant as this was the earliest a manufacturer has introduced their flagship lines in a year.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is priced at $799 or £769 for the 128GB and 8GB RAM variant. And the 256GB and 8GB variant is priced at $849 or £819.

Visit the following link to purchase the device.

Design Language on the Samsung Galaxy S21

The design of the device is definitely where we begin to see the biggest changes over the Galaxy S20. There has been a complete change in material and style. While switching over from the all-glass back on the S20 to a Glasstic rear with a matte finish, Samsung has also introduced a wide range of exciting new color options.

You’ve got a selection from; Phantom White, Pink, Grey, and Violet. And each also has different accent colors highlighted in the camera area.

Samsung Galaxy S21 color variants.

Display

One area where you begin to notice where the cuts have been made in order to reach this lower price point is in the display. Samsung has opted to go with a 6.2 inch Full HD+ AMOLED display. But it is a lower resolution in comparison to the Galaxy S20. However, this change will be hardly noticeable unless you are switching over from a device with a QHD resolution panel.

The panel on the Samsung Galaxy S21 has a max 120Hz refresh rate. And it will be selected by default on an adaptive feature.

The in-display fingerprint scanner has improved as well, it has been made 70% larger and faster.

Camera

The camera setup is unchanged from the S20. The device still features the same 12MP main, 64MP telephoto, and 12MP ultra-wide lenses. But the upgrades have come in terms of the firmware.

Single Take – allows you to catch a range of images and videos with the press of a button using all three cameras-is smoother than ever due to the inclusion of a new slow-mo feature, and it remains one of the devices' strengths.

Also remarkable is the telephoto lens, providing 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom. The photos aren't going to equal what you get from the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but this is still a neat idea to mess around with.

 The 10MP selfie camera on the handset proves to be capable enough. In this age of lockdowns and quarantines, everyone seems to be keeping in touch through video calls. You'll find that this camera is up to the challenge, and users have found it also gives some fantastic selfie performance.

In terms of video capability, you have the luxury of 8K at 24 frames per second. Which provides optimum resolution and detail, but which users have discovered to be a little too clipped for their taste. 4K at 30 and 60 frames per second, as well as Full HD at 30, 60, and 240fps, have proved to be much more effective.

The camera setup.

Performance of the Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21 range is the first to get the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 999 chipset or Samsung’s Exynos 2100. The devices seem to run much faster and smoother, not to say previous models were slow in any way but these devices are lightning quick and have a buttery smoothness. 

The phone scored very well in the following tests:-

  1. AnTuTu: 584055 (v8)
  2. GeekBench: 3238 (v5.1)
  3. GFXBench: 60fps (ES 3.1 onscreen)

All in all, the smartphone is a step beyond anything we've seen traditionally from Samsung and this delivers one of the greatest smartphone experiences particularly when it comes to efficiency on an Android phone. In the foreseeable future, we expect to have a final verdict on the Qualcomm chipset toting variant.

Battery

The Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with a 4000mAh battery. And it has shown to have very good battery life. Even with 5G and a massive 6.2-inch Full HD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The device will last you through intense days of use with maybe 20% left. And as far as charging goes, the phone is 25W fast-charging and also Qi wireless charging capable.

Unfortunately, though Samsung following in Apple’s direction has deiced to omit the charging brick and only ships the device in the box. The charger is available for purchase at $19.

Final verdict of the Samsung Galaxy S21

As we've been used to for much of the past few years, the Galaxy S21 is not really the highlight of Samsung's flagship series in 2021. But it's a strong handset option with an excellent camera, powerful interiors, and long battery life. Consider the Galaxy S21 Ultra if you really want the cream of the crop. But if you want a smartphone that's cheaper than the launch of the Galaxy S20, with a whole lot of quality features, that's it!

Author of Get Basic Idea - Knowledge Base.

Chamath Perera

Author of Get Basic Idea - Knowledge Base.

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