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Samsung Galaxy S21 evaluate

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Two-minute evaluate

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is an odd handset on paper, however having spent per week utilizing it we’ve discovered it to be a extremely succesful handset that is a pleasure to make use of, regardless of a few specs being dropped from earlier handsets, notably the Galaxy S20 from 2020.

Why does the Samsung Galaxy S21 have lesser specs than the Galaxy S20? Two causes. The primary is that Samsung wished to drop the worth of its handset – the S21 begins at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 in comparison with the Galaxy S20 5G’s $999 / £899 / AU$1,499.

The second is that the corporate can be placing a much bigger give attention to its Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely – and in contrast to the Galaxy S20 Extremely in 2020, it’s a handset we’d readily suggest to those that are determined to strive the corporate’s newest improvements, and pleased to pay for them. 

That makes the S21 a considerably much less thrilling Galaxy S telephone than we’re used to seeing, however make no mistake: the Galaxy S21 remains to be a incredible handset alternative, albeit with just a few tweaked specs in comparison with the Galaxy S20 – and that worth drop is prone to entice much more individuals to the S collection.

In order for you a bigger display however comparable specs, there’s additionally the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus however we have but to have that telephone in for a full evaluate on TechRadar.

Again to the S21, and the chipset is highly effective, the digital camera software program has improved over current fashions, and the battery life is robust, supplying you with a stable day of use from a full cost, alongside efficient fast-charging and wi-fi charging choices.

Samsung has opted for a lower-spec display than the one on the S20, with a Full HD+ 6.2-inch show, but it surely presents a 120Hz refresh price for super-smooth scrolling and graphics,  incredible colours, and powerful brightness ranges – and we didn’t discover the decrease decision in most of our testing.

The chipset – we’ve examined the Exynos 2100 model of the telephone – can be highly effective, delivering some incredible outcomes real-world use in addition to in benchmarking software program.

When you already personal a Samsung Galaxy S20, or if you could find that handset for a major low cost, you gained’t need to go for the Galaxy S21 – whereas the brand new telephone good points in some areas it loses in others, and general there’s not a lot between the 2 telephones – actually not sufficient to justify paying a few hundred {dollars} or kilos extra.

Conversely, in case you’re after the top-end tech that Samsung is promoting this yr you then’ll need to try the Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely. However in case you’re after a (a lot) cheaper various to that telephone, that shares lots of the identical design language and options, and which works fantastically nicely for on a regular basis duties, the Galaxy S21 is simply that. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 launch date and worth

The Samsung Galaxy S21 launch date is Friday, January 29, 2021 for many of the world, together with the US, UK and Australia. The telephone was formally unveiled on January 14, and preorders are actually reside in these territories as nicely.

The Galaxy S21 worth is remarkably decrease than that of the S20 at launch, with Samsung trimming just a few specs, together with lowering the utmost show decision and dropping microSD help, with the intention to make this attainable.

The Galaxy S21 worth begins at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 for a model with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. There’s additionally a 256GB and 8GB RAM variant, and that prices $849 / £819 / AU$1,349.

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The Galaxy S20 5G worth began at $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 so the brand new telephone is kind of a bit cheaper. In order for you the very top-end specs, you’ll be searching for the Galaxy S21 Extremely, which sports activities perks like a QHD+ show and expandable storage, however which comes with a a lot larger price ticket.

It’s additionally value noting that every one of Samsung’s S21 telephones are 5G-compatible in 2021, so that you gained’t be capable to purchase a 4G-only variant. As an alternative, Samsung had made its 5G-compatible smartphones extra competitively priced, so that you’ll be getting a future-proofed possibility even in case you don’t intend to make use of next-gen connectivity within the close to future.

In search of a barely larger spec Samsung Galaxy S21 handset? The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus begins at $999 / £949 / AU$1,549 with the Galaxy S21 Extremely taking the consideration of the collection’ costliest telephone at $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,849.


The design is the place Samsung has made essentially the most clearly noticeable adjustments over the S20 (which we topped 2020’s finest smartphone), overhauling the supplies used, the colours, and the general look of the machine.

There’s a 6.2-inch Full HD+ AMOLED show on this handset, which we’ll dive into extra within the show part under. This telephone is the smallest member of the Galaxy S21 household, and whereas it will not be as trim because the iPhone 12 mini, these with smaller arms shouldn’t have an excessive amount of bother utilizing it.

In order for you a bigger telephone, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus comes with a bigger display and the Galaxy S21 Extremely has the most important display of the entire collection. Each of those handsets are dearer although.

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Samsung has switched from a full glass rear on the Galaxy S20 – a design that wasn’t too thrilling within the flesh – to a ‘Glasstic’ rear that comes with a matte end and incorporates a brand new digital camera block design.

Glasstic is the corporate’s personal identify for the fabric, which because the identify suggests is someplace between plastic and glass. It doesn’t really feel as premium as a glass rear, however the matte end additionally means it doesn’t really feel like low-cost plastic both.

Samsung used the identical materials on the Galaxy Observe 20, however the matte end feels extra appropriate right here and it’s a lot much less shiny than the glass rear on the Galaxy S20, which implies it’s much less of a fingerprint magnet. The steel edges across the outdoors of the machine add a contact of premium polish.

You’ve obtained 4 shade selections at launch: Phantom Grey, Phantom White, Phantom Pink, and Phantom Violet (the shade you see pictured all through this evaluate) – we predict Violet is the standout shade right here. 

The corporate has made the digital camera array on the S21 telephones look totally different to some other in the marketplace .Samsung is looking this its Contour Minimize Digicam, and it’s a divisive design to say the least – though we predict it appears to be like daring, and it’s one thing we’ve grown used to throughout our time testing the telephone. The gold digital camera array on the Phantom Violet variant is especially handsome, and it feels slimmer than on the Galaxy S20, so it doesn’t jutt out from the rear of the telephone a lot.

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There’s little or no to interrupt up the modern edges of the telephone: the underside edge options the SIM tray, a USB-C port and a speaker grille, whereas on the appropriate facet are the facility button and quantity rocker; nonetheless, the Bixby button discovered on different handsets from the corporate hasn’t made a return right here. As an alternative you possibly can launch Samsung’s assistant by lengthy urgent the facility button.

One destructive for some is the swap to a totally flat display on the Galaxy S21. Samsung has used screens that curve attractively into the physique on the left and proper edges for numerous generations now, however this has been dropped for the Galaxy S21.

It’s unlikely to be one thing you’ll discover until you’re used to these curved edges, but it surely’s value noting in case you’re somebody who significantly likes that design function – and as is the case with different dropped options,  Samsung has retained the curved-edge display for the premium S21 Extremely.

All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S21 seems like a premium machine, though it’s unlikely to really feel as top-end because the Samsung Galaxy S20 in case you personal that handset, or the Galaxy S21 Extremely.


The downgrade to the show is probably essentially the most controversial change Samsung has made for the Galaxy S21, with the corporate switching to a lower-res Full HD+ display than the Quad HD show out there on 2020’s Galaxy S20.

As talked about, Samsung has carried out this to assist maintain the worth of the brand new telephone down, and until you’ve used a telephone with a QHD decision we don’t consider you’ll be capable to simply inform the distinction – we discovered that every one the movies we watched on the S21 appeared suitably high-quality on the Full HD+ panel.

When you already personal a Samsung Galaxy S20, although you probably gained’t be impressed by this resolution, and in case you’re searching for the easiest Samsung display tech you then’ll need to go for the Galaxy S21 Extremely, which retains the QHD display.

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Has Samsung made the appropriate resolution right here? Largely, we predict, sure. It gained’t be common with everybody, however crucially it’s allowed Samsung to chop the worth of its Galaxy S21 collection, and it gained’t be massively detrimental to most individuals’s on a regular basis expertise with the telephone.

The Galaxy S21 show incorporates a 120Hz most refresh price, which is on by default and works in an adaptive capability – so in case you’re taking part in a cellular sport, for instance, the display will keep on with 120Hz, whereas in case you’re studying an audiobook it’ll cut back the refresh price with the intention to save battery.

Samsung has additionally made important enhancements to the fingerprint scanner on the S21 telephones over earlier handsets. The sensor itself is 70% bigger, so it’s simpler to hit, and it’s notably quicker too; it isn’t as fast because the bodily fingerprint scanners you’ll discover on different telephones, however this is among the finest in-screen scanners we’ve used.


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The Galaxy S21 digital camera {hardware} hasn’t modified from final yr’s telephone, as Samsung’s large sensor improve occurred between the Galaxy S10 and S20 technology. This yr it’s all in regards to the software program, and Samsung discovering a strategy to slim down the digital camera module. 

It’s the identical triple-lens rear array then: 12MP foremost digital camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and 64MP telephoto able to a 3x hybrid optical zoom. As on the Galaxy S20, all three of those are able to taking some glorious images, and the Galaxy S21 will get some software program upgrades to enhance issues additional.

When you’ve obtained a Galaxy S20 you’re unlikely to see any main enchancment to your pictures, however these coming from the Galaxy S10 and earlier than will see large enhancements.

Single Take – Samsung’s digital camera mode that lets you seize a wide range of images and movies, utilizing all three cameras, with a single press of the shutter button – is healthier than ever due to the addition of a brand new slow-mo possibility, and it stays one of many highlights of Samsung telephones.

For instance, in case you’re taking images of unpredictable pets or fast-moving youngsters you’re prone to discover that Single Take maximizes your possibilities of getting some usable photographs and/or clips.

The telephoto digital camera right here is spectacular too, providing 3x optical zoom and as much as 30x digital zoom. The outcomes aren’t going to check to what you’ll get from the 2 telephoto cameras on the Galaxy S21 Extremely, however that is nonetheless a enjoyable function to mess around with. 

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We discovered images of far-off objects taken at 10x and under have been of respectable high quality and completely usable. Something larger than that turns into very grainy, and the standard deteriorates shortly.

The 10MP selfie digital camera on the entrance of the telephone is much less headline-grabbing, but it surely proved succesful sufficient throughout our testing. With the world more and more staying in contact by way of video calls on this period of lockdowns, you’ll discover this digital camera is as much as the duty, and we discovered it gave us some nice selfie outcomes too.

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One other new function for the Galaxy S21 is a Director’s View mode, which lets you shoot with the entrance and rear cameras on the similar time. The thought right here is vloggers and different content material creators can seize response photographs of themselves, which they will splice in alongside their foremost footage.

We discovered the function to work nicely, and it’s much like the choice we’ve seen on HMD International’s Nokia telephones lately. We’re undecided how many individuals aside from vloggers will really use this function, but it surely’s one other enjoyable improve that encourages you to experiment.

For video, you’ve obtained the choice of 8K at 24 frames per second, which presents most high quality and element, however which we discovered to be a contact too cropped for our liking. Extra usefully there’s additionally 4K at 30 and 60 frames per second, in addition to Full HD at 30, 60 and 240fps.

Digicam samples

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Specs and efficiency

The Galaxy S21 telephones are the primary gadgets to make use of the newest technology of chipsets: both Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 (US) or Samsung’s personal Exynos 2100 (nearly in every single place else).

We’ve solely had the prospect to check the Exynos 2100 model of the S21, and it looks like a serious enchancment over earlier generations of Samsung’s chipset. Prior to now, the Exynos variant tended to lag behind the Qualcomm-powered telephones in some areas however this yr the hole appears to have narrowed.

In Geekbench 5, the Samsung Galaxy S21 returned a multi-core rating of 3367. That is notably higher than the Galaxy S20 (the one that includes the Exynos 990 chipset) that returned a rating of 2699.

Benchmarking does not present all the pieces, however we have discovered on a regular basis duties on the telephone have been quicker than beforehand with the handset greater than succesful at dealing with gaming, multi-tasking and having a number of apps open in split-screen view too.

We’ve but to check the Samsung Galaxy S21 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset inside, however the Galaxy S21 Extremely carried out nicely with this chipset inside so we’d anticipate comparable outcomes on that S21 handset.

Total, the Exynos 2100 variant of the handset is a step above what we have seen from Samsung beforehand and this presents among the best experiences with regards to efficiency on an Android telephone proper now. We hope to have a full verdict on the Qualcomm chipset toting model within the close to future.

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Within the S21 each chips are paired with 8GB of RAM – if you would like greater than that on a brand new Samsung machine, you’ll need to go for the Galaxy S21 Extremely, which comes with both 12GB or 16GB.

Together with that 8GB of RAM you’ve obtained the selection of both 128GB or 256GB of storage. The massive information right here is that Samsung has dropped microSD help from the S21, so you possibly can’t develop on the built-in storage.

The corporate is as an alternative simply providing inner storage, and once more this appears to be a cost-saving measure from Samsung, but it surely’s prone to disappoint anybody who desires essentially the most reasonably priced handset however wants lots of storage.

The S21 runs Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.0 pores and skin, which is amongst our favourite software program interfaces. Simply know that it could be practically a yr earlier than you see Android 12 on this telephone, even when Google releases the replace in August, as Samsung could be a little sluggish to roll out new variations of Android.

Samsung has totally embraced 5G in 2021 too, and all variants of the Galaxy S21 are 5G-compatible. Even in case you’re not in a 5G-ready space, it primarily means you’re futureproofed prepared for when 5G connectivity is extra extensively out there.

Battery life

Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S21 is stable, though it’s not a game-changing enchancment over the S20, as the corporate could have led some to consider with its new Exynos 2100 chipset.

We typically discovered that the telephone would comfortably final a full day, however on one event, after we have been making extra use of the telephone’s GPS sign and different power-hungry options we discovered the machine ran out of steam by round 10pm.

Recharging the S21 is straightforward, utilizing the corporate’s 25W fast-charging tech by way of the telephone’s USB-C port. It’s additionally suitable with Qi wi-fi charging, and we discovered that labored nicely throughout our testing.

Reverse wi-fi charging can be supported, so you should use your telephone’s energy to high up gadgets reminiscent of Qi-compatible wi-fi headphones, however we discovered that to be sluggish, and it’s a function you’d probably solely need to use in emergencies.

One factor lacking this yr is compatibility with Samsung’s 45W chargers that labored with the S20 collection. Samsung instructed TechRadar that it’s made optimizations to the 25W charging capabilities of its new telephones, so 45W charging wasn’t that important a profit.

The opposite factor to notice right here is that the Galaxy S21 doesn’t include a charger within the field. Samsung has adopted in Apple’s footsteps by not bundling a charger with its new telephones because it seeks to chop down on e-waste.

The pondering is that, in case you’re shopping for a brand new Samsung telephone, you probably have already got a suitable USB-C charger that may work simply wonderful. When you do want a charger you’ll have to purchase one, however whereas Samsung has dropped the worth of its charger to $19 within the US, in different markets they’re nonetheless fairly costly, so it’s one thing to pay attention to.

Ought to I purchase the Samsung Galaxy S21?

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Purchase it if…

You desire a smaller Samsung telephone

The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t the smallest premium telephone in the marketplace – that honor probably goes to the iPhone 12 mini – but it surely’s a sensible choice for anybody who doesn’t desire a fantastically giant smartphone of their pocket. It’s 6.2-inch display could look giant on paper, however the telephone itself is notably smaller than lots of its Android competitors.

You want probably the most highly effective Android telephones

The Galaxy S21 presents some phenomenally good efficiency, and in case you want a smartphone that may deal with a number of duties directly in split-screen view or when gaming this can probably be it.

When you’ve obtained a a lot older telephone

When you’ve got the Galaxy S20 then the S21 isn’t an important improve, because it doesn’t symbolize a transparent enchancment by way of specs and options, however when you’ve got the S10 or under you’re extra prone to discover the S21 a worthwhile improve. It’s additionally appropriate for individuals who have older telephones from different producers and need to strive a Samsung machine. 

Don’t purchase it if…

You personal a Samsung Galaxy S20

As we are saying above, in case you already personal the Galaxy S20, there’s little cause to improve to this handset, because it doesn’t symbolize a transparent enchancment by way of specs and options. As an alternative, you will need to look towards the Galaxy S21 Extremely or maybe await no matter Samsung does subsequent.

You want a lot of storage

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is hamstrung by its comparatively meagre built-in storage and lack of microSD help for increasing on that. When you want a lot of house in your smartphone for video games, music and video, you’re higher off going for nearly some other high Android telephone, as most will allow you to slot in a microSD card.

You need one of the best of one of the best

The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t the star of the Galaxy S21 household – in case you’re after the easiest from the corporate in 2021 you’ll need to have a look at the Galaxy S21 Extremely – in case your funds can stretch to its appreciable price ticket.

First reviewed: January 2021 

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