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Samsung Galaxy S21 overview: Compact, however not weak

Samsung Galaxy S21 overview: Compact, however not weak

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When Samsung launches a brand new flagship Galaxy S lineup, it’s normally the largest of the lot that will get all consideration, as a result of that’s all the time the mannequin that’s the full-fledged flagship. And that’s true for the Galaxy S21 sequence as properly, although the smallest mannequin this time round is particular for being one in all Samsung’s most affordably priced Galaxy S flagship in years.

Samsung has made loads of sacrifices to succeed in the $799 price ticket of the Galaxy S21. It has a plastic again, a flat show, and the identical digicam {hardware} as its predecessor, and it misses out on a microSD slot and, in some markets, it lacks MST help for Samsung Pay. You don’t get a charger or earphones within the field, both.

Samsung proved with the Galaxy S20 FE final 12 months that an affordable cellphone doesn’t should be a foul cellphone, however does that imply the Galaxy S21 is equally good and worthy of your consideration and hard-earned cash? This overview goals to reply that, so let’s get began.

Notice: This overview relies on the Exynos 2100 variant. 5G networks weren’t used throughout the overview interval. 

Galaxy S21 design

Plastic. Any point out of that phrase round flagship telephones is frowned upon, however Samsung is making an attempt to buck the pattern. That’s factor, as a result of whereas the Galaxy S21 doesn’t really feel as premium because the Galaxy S21 Extremely, there’s nothing low-cost about it, both. A plastic again makes the cellphone significantly lighter and grippier as properly, and you’ll relaxation assured you received’t be strolling round with a cracked cellphone ought to it take a tumble right down to the ground with no case on.

The truth is, I’ve been utilizing the Galaxy S20 FE the previous few months and have gotten comfy with the concept of not utilizing a case, and the Galaxy S21 is a cellphone that positively shines with out one. That’s as a result of Samsung is promoting the Galaxy S21 in a bunch of lovely colours. Our Phantom Violet S21 is simply beautiful, and with the brand new “contour minimize” design, which sees the metallic body mix seamlessly with the rear digicam housing, these telephones look completely beautiful. And I really like the matte end on the Galaxy S21 sequence, as a result of it appears to be like nice and hides fingerprint smudges very properly.

The one odd design alternative right here is having the microphone subsequent to the SIM card slot on the backside. It stood out to me whereas I used to be switching to the S21, and if I hadn’t regarded twice, I might simply have made the error of placing the SIM ejector pin within the microphone gap. It appears that evidently wouldn’t have really broken the microphone, as it’s laid sideways contained in the physique as an alternative of dealing with downwards, but it surely’s nonetheless one thing Samsung ought to have considered when designing its new flagships.

Galaxy S21 show

The Galaxy S21 has a 6.2-inch Infinity-O show that has an adaptive refresh price of 48-120Hz. Samsung has made quite a lot of adjustments to the non-Extremely fashions this 12 months. Each the S21 and S21+ have a flat show, and their decision maxes out at Full HD+. However that doesn’t imply you’re not getting probably the greatest shows on the market. The S21’s show is sharp, stunning and shiny and has wonderful viewing angles. The bezels are fairly small, too.

The excessive refresh price makes animations and scrolling extraordinarily easy. Because of the adaptive refresh price, which drops it right down to 48Hz relying on what you’re doing, the S21’s show feels smoother than the shows on final 12 months’s S20 fashions, and it makes use of much less energy in consequence. Naturally, the S21 is fairly compact, too. The 6.2-inch show felt small to me in comparison with the Galaxy S20 FE, but it surely’s nice for one-handed use and is ideal for anybody not out there for outsized smartphones.

Sadly, I skilled some hiccups with the touchscreen. Scrolling via varied apps was jittery at instances, and it appeared just like the scrolling motion was leaving a path behind. Not look contemplating the touchscreen points that plagued some Galaxy S20 FE items, although there’s hope Samsung will be capable to repair them via software program updates on the Galaxy S21 as properly.

The upgraded ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor may be very quick, and I don’t assume it ever missed recognizing my fingerprint. Nevertheless, our editor-in-chief doesn’t really feel the S21 Extremely’s fingerprint sensor is quicker than the sensor on final 12 months’s Galaxy flagships, so your expertise might fluctuate. Nonetheless, enhancements have definitely been made, and so they’re fairly welcome.

Galaxy S21 digicam

The Galaxy S21 (and S21+) has the very same digicam {hardware} because the Galaxy S20: A 12MP F1.8 most important shooter with Twin Pixel autofocus and optical picture stabilization, a 12MP F2.2 ultra-wide digicam, a 64MP F2.0 zoom digicam with OIS, and a 10MP F2.2 selfie digicam with Twin Pixel autofocus. As such, we weren’t anticipating the image high quality to be too completely different, and whereas that’s true for probably the most half, Samsung does appear to have pared down the oversaturation, leading to extra practical wanting pictures from the principle digicam.

Daylight pictures taken outside are shiny, sharp, and have good dynamic vary – I believe the sharpness can go overboard at instances, however that could be as a result of I’m them on a smaller display screen. Nighttime efficiency is okay. Nighttime photographs taken indoors proceed to really feel delicate with plenty of overprocessing happening, however you should utilize Night time mode to get round that. The selfie digicam is fairly good, too. Selfies taken outside are pretty sharp, whereas indoor pictures are delicate. Low-light selfies vary from ineffective to surprisingly good, but it surely’s normally the previous.

A couple of pictures taken with the principle rear digicam:

Just like the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S21 makes use of digital cropping of a 64MP picture for 3x-30x zoom (making final 12 months’s Galaxy S20 FE technically superior). 3x photographs are nice and 10x zoom is greater than usable, however something past that’s normally a very delicate mess, particularly in low-light conditions. Nevertheless, the brand new Zoom Lock characteristic does imply that 30x footage aren’t a blurry mess as they had been on the S20 and S20+, as Zoom Lock locks the body in place and stops it from leaping round like loopy. Extremely-wide footage, in the meantime, stay nearly unchanged in high quality.

Listed here are a bunch of photographs captured at 0.5x (ultra-wide), 1x (most important digicam), 3x, 10x, and 30x zoom ranges:

The Galaxy S21 helps 8K video recording due to the 64MP digicam, but it surely’s finest to only shoot movies at 4K as a result of the 8K movies deliver nothing however elevated file sizes to the desk and 4K movies have already got loads of element. Talking of 4K, the S21 doesn’t help 60 fps recording on the zoom and ultra-wide cameras – that’s reserved for the Extremely mannequin. Nevertheless, you do get Director’s View. Director’s View allows you to see the output from and change between all three rear cameras and the entrance digicam on the identical time, and it’s nice for influencers who’re into making TikTok or Instagram movies.

Portrait mode, beforehand known as Stay focus mode, has quite a lot of new studio-quality results, similar to Excessive-key mono and Low-key mono which flip the background utterly black or white and allow you to modify the brightness of your face (attainable each earlier than and after taking the photograph). I don’t assume the outcomes are nice, and Samsung may take a couple of classes from Apple so far as bokeh pictures are involved. Samsung has additionally up to date Single Take mode with the choice to decide on what sort of outcomes you get, whereas Professional and Professional video modes now permit the usage of the ultra-wide digicam along with the principle digicam.

Listed here are some commonplace selfies together with a couple of portrait ones:

Galaxy S21 efficiency

One of many greatest upgrades the Galaxy S21 sequence will get is newer processors. The Exynos 990 that powered 2020’s Galaxy flagships was a subpar chip that attracted loads of criticism, however Samsung has managed to place all of that behind with the Exynos 2100 that powers the Galaxy S21 lineup.

Our Galaxy S21 was very quick and easy. Video games run nice, whether or not they help excessive refresh price or not. There’s simply 8GB of RAM, however I by no means felt prefer it affected the consumer expertise. Just like the Galaxy S21 Extremely, the one space the place efficiency was lower than optimum was within the digicam app. The digicam app may be sluggish at instances, particularly when switching between the completely different modes, and the primary two updates which were launched for the lineup main as much as the launch did nothing to repair it.

Sadly, there have been additionally a couple of situations the place the cellphone grew to become unbearably sizzling, like after I was on an extended WhatsApp video name and when utilizing Android Auto. The plastic again is perhaps partially responsible as plastic isn’t warmth conductor, however neither the Galaxy Notice 20 nor the Galaxy S20 FE had been as unhealthy regardless of having polycarbonate backs. That is one other subject that may want fixing with a software program replace, however we’re two updates in and nothing has modified.

The Galaxy S21 misses out on superior options like UWB (ultra-wideband) and Wi-Fi 6E help, however that’s far much less irritating than the truth that there’s no expandable storage on this cellphone. Just like the S21+ and S21 Extremely, there’s no microSD slot, and also you get 128GB of storage on the bottom mannequin that’s going to fall brief when you begin utilizing options like 8K video recording. There’s 5G connectivity for fast cloud entry, however 5G networks are in brief provide proper now and cloud storage requires further expenditure as properly.

Galaxy S21 software program, audio high quality

The brand new flagships run Android 11 and One UI 3.1 out of the field and don’t deliver many new options to the desk outdoors of the digicam app. There’s the choice to have Google Uncover on the house display screen as an alternative of Samsung’s personal information aggregator, video name results that blur out the background in video calls made utilizing apps like Zoom and Google Duo, the flexibility to take away location knowledge from photos earlier than sharing them, and Non-public Share, a blockchain-based sharing app that allows you to set an expiration date for shared information and protects shared photos and movies from being screenshotted.

The Galaxy S21 is eligible for 3 main Android OS updates and also will get month-to-month safety updates. And like the opposite two Galaxy S21s, it doesn’t help Samsung Pay funds over MST (mainly, it doesn’t work with conventional card machines, solely NFC ones) in some markets. For extra info on the software program, try our Galaxy S21 Extremely overview. That overview additionally has the small print you want on audio high quality, because it’s all the identical throughout the three Galaxy S21 telephones, together with the shortage of earphones within the field and a headphone jack.

Galaxy S21 battery life

Battery life virtually all the time needs to be sacrificed for making small (by in the present day’s requirements) telephones, and it’s simply the Galaxy S21’s weakest facet. I’ve been utilizing the Galaxy S20 FE (Snapdragon variant) because it launched final 12 months, and I used to be disillusioned with the Galaxy S21’s endurance. With gentle to reasonable use, I may barely get via the day with three to 4 hours of display screen on time.

With heavy use, I virtually all the time needed to cost the cellphone after 8-10 hours with round 4 hours of display screen on time. All of that was with 120Hz mode enabled, and the outcomes weren’t significantly better with the excessive refresh price turned off. This isn’t a cellphone that may allow you to neglect in regards to the charger or offer you ease of thoughts if you’re going to be out and about for lengthy hours, it’s so simple as that. Carrying an influence financial institution each time attainable is advisable.

Charging specs on the Galaxy S21 are the identical as these on the S21+ and S21 Extremely. There’s 25W wired quick charging help if yow will discover a 25W charger (that helps USB PPS) or purchase one from Samsung that may cost the cellphone absolutely in somewhat over an hour. Quick wi-fi charging and reverse wi-fi charging help are included as properly, although we don’t counsel utilizing the latter for something however a smartwatch or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds earbuds due to the small battery inside this cellphone.

Galaxy S21 verdict

So, let’s break it down: Must you purchase the Galaxy S21? Effectively, when you’re on the lookout for a compact flagship cellphone with the newest options and a phenomenal design, don’t thoughts the shortage of expandable storage or full-fledged Samsung Pay help, and are okay together with your cellphone heating up at instances (a problem that, ought to or not it’s widespread, will seemingly be fixable via a software program replace), the Galaxy S21 will swimsuit you properly. It’s not an enormous step up over the Galaxy S20, however then not many individuals are upgrading their telephones yearly in order that shouldn’t matter all that a lot.

If a compact cellphone isn’t what you’re on the lookout for, then you may want to try the $100 cheaper Galaxy S20 FE. Its LTE variant is powered by the Exynos 990, but it surely nonetheless affords wonderful efficiency, lengthy battery life, a excessive refresh price show, just about the identical most important digicam and barely higher zoom footage, and, most significantly, a microSD slot and Samsung Pay with NFC help. It would additionally get updates as much as Android 13, so although it’s older than the S21, it’s not going to be instantly outdated as soon as you buy it.

P.S.: Wish to know one thing in regards to the Galaxy S21 that’s not talked about within the overview? Ask me within the feedback part and I’ll do my finest to reply.

Execs Cons
Stunning excessive refresh price show Common battery life with each 60Hz and 120Hz refresh price
Distinctive, beautiful and compact design Will get very popular at instances
Wonderful footage from most important 12MP digicam, neat new options like Director’s View Cameras, whereas good, should not an improve over the Galaxy S20
Nice 3x zoom footage from 64MP digicam, usable footage until 10x zoom No microSD slot, 128GB base storage
Quick efficiency with the Exynos 2100 processor Samsung Pay doesn’t help MST in some markets
Extra correct newer technology in-display fingerprint sensor No charger or earphones within the field
Eligible for 3 main Android OS updates
5G connectivity


  • Mannequin: SM-G991B
  • Dimensions: Bar: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm
  • Show: 6.2 inch / 157.48 mm Dynamic AMOLED 2X
  • CPU: Exynos 2100
  • Digicam: 12MP
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