samsung-galaxy-s21-evaluation

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Update: The Galaxy S21 5G is now out there for buy. Check out the 

finest offers right here.

Well, that was fast! The new 

Galaxy S21 collection of telephones dropped early this yr — an entire trio of Samsung flagships to choose from.

The “cheapest” of the three is the 

Galaxy S21 — not an Ultra, not a Plus. But it’s nonetheless not an affordable cellphone in no way — it’ll set you again $799.99 on the base storage tier.

Is it… value it? It positively appears to be like nice and packs the most recent Sammy {hardware} — a 120 Hz display and a Snapdragon 888 (or Exynos 2100) processor. It’s snappy and enjoyable to make use of, and its digital camera is fairly nice as properly.

I’ve a few gripes with it. For one, it’s acquired a plastic again and secondly, it did away with the curved “Edge” display that Samsung flagships have had for years now.

These are each minor complaints, positive, however they immediately make the Galaxy S21 corresponding to the less expensive 

Galaxy S20 FE. The latter has an MSRP of $699.99, however can typically be discovered as little as $550. The S20 FE additionally comes with a flat display, plastic again, quick {hardware}, and a good looking 120 Hz display.

Also try: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 FE

Why go for the Galaxy S21 in any respect? Well, it positively appears to be like much more subtle than the S20 FE and has a significantly better digital camera. And it is available in a smaller package deal, if a compact cellphone is what you might be solely after. There’s a marketplace for it, but when you end up scoffing at that $800 price-tag, positively try the Galaxy S20 FE as a substitute.

On the opposite hand, if cash is just not an enormous concern, however the plastic again is — Samsung is mainly pressuring you into going for the Galaxy S21+, which I believe is a low-blow tactic.

Samsung Galaxy S21 alternate options

Aside from the aforementioned Galaxy S20 FE, the Galaxy S21 has a pair extra rivals on the market. Apple’s 

iPhone 12 would not fiddle and — though it lacks in digital camera options in comparison with the S21 — it does offer you an in into that iOS ecosystem. The

Google Pixel 5 is an upper-midrange cellphone at finest, nevertheless it provides you that superior digital camera in a super-compact package deal. And there’s the

OnePlus 8T, which comes with super-fast charging (and hey — the charger’s within the field).


Samsung Galaxy S21 show and design

The Galaxy S21 is unmistakably a Samsung cellphone — the design has a vibe that someway brings again Galaxy S7 reminiscences, but it appears to be like trendy and recent. I actually just like the design of the digital camera module — the way it blends with the body of the system and creates that duo-tone search for some colours, just like the Phantom Violet we’ve got right here.

It handles nice — it’s not a small cellphone, however it’s a “compact” cellphone by in the present day’s requirements. Taking it out and slipping it again right into a pocket and one-handed operation are total straightforward duties. It nonetheless doesn’t really feel as mild because the Galaxy S10, which continues to be a private favourite of mine when it comes to dealing with, however the S21 is usually fantastic in that facet.

Unfortunately, I do really feel just like the plastic again, as a substitute of it being glass, sort of detracts from the general premium really feel. Granted, it’s high-quality polycarbonate, processed to have that grippy matte contact to it. But it nonetheless has the clack and heat, delicate contact of plastic.

“Oh, you spoiled reviewer. Most people use a case with their phone anyway!”. I’ll grant you this. But additionally, many don’t. We shouldn’t cease caring concerning the design and construct of an $800 piece of tech based mostly on whether or not or not we will probably be tacking aftermarket equipment to it.

The display doesn’t have curves on the edges, which is one thing we haven’t seen on a Samsung flagship in fairly a while (because the Galaxy S7). Users have had this love-hate relationship with Samsung’s Edge screens for some time now. Yeah, they give the impression of being cool, however they mainly invite ghost touches each time you attempt to shift the cellphone round in your palm. And they’re onerous to guard by most circumstances except they’ve this actually thick lip.

Personally, I miss the curved display. Just wanting on the S20 and S21 aspect by aspect, the previous appears to be like extra elegant and complicated in my eyes (however, from the again, the S21 wins — arms down!). The solely method to get an Edge display on the S21 era is to splurge for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But if you’re within the anti-Edge camp, then you definitely’ll be fairly proud of the selection you have got between the S21 and S21+.

The S21’s display has a 6.2-inch diagonal, similar because the Galaxy S20. Disappointingly for pixel-peepers, the Galaxy S21 has an FHD+ decision, which means 1080 x 2400. That’s a downgrade from the Galaxy S20’s QHD+ (1440 x 3200).

In all honesty, this brings the pixel density of the Galaxy S21 right down to 424 PPI, which implies it’s nonetheless exceptionally sharp. The S20’s 566 PPI was simply overkill for no obvious cause apart from bragging rights. I’ve at all times saved my Samsung flagships to a 1080p decision (which is definitely their default setting) and I dare argue you’ll be able to’t actually see the distinction between FHD and QHD on such a small display. Fight me.

Also, the decrease decision needs to be extra forgiving on the battery, which is one thing that really issues.

You can nonetheless anticipate a dynamic refresh price right here, which means the Galaxy S21 can go as much as a 120 Hz refresh for tremendous clean animations. Whenever it’s not displaying movement, the cellphone will throttle right down to 48 Hz to avoid wasting that valuable battery juice.

Display measurements and high quality


Samsung Galaxy S21 digital camera

Back within the day, a Galaxy S would have the perfect Samsung has to supply. Now, it’s a bit extra difficult. The finest digital camera is on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, whereas the Galaxy S21 and S21+ are… a step under.

Camera comparability: Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Pixel 5 vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Does this imply that the Galaxy S21’s digital camera is one thing to smirk at? Not in any respect! It is, the truth is, as reliable and high-quality as we’ve come to anticipate from Samsung.

The foremost digital camera right here has a 12 MP sensor with huge, 1.8 μm pixels. It collects a ton of sunshine and Samsung photographs at all times find yourself being shiny and well-exposed. It additionally has a incredible dynamic vary, which means particulars in shadows stay seen whereas highlights don’t burn out to white blotches.

In all honesty, it performs just about identically to the Galaxy S20’s digital camera, which is to say — very properly. Colors are saturated to provide photos a distinguished “pop”, however they’re largely true to life. The solely instances we would catch a mishap is within the inexperienced coloration of grass and the blues of the sky. The latter is extra typically a bit too vibrant and unnatural for my tastes.

The particulars are at all times sharp — Samsung cellphone cameras have this factor the place they at all times dance on the fantastic line between crisp element and an excessive amount of sharpening. Depending in your present lighting situations and the scene generally, you may catch a glimpse of oversharpening right here and there, however I’d say it’s not offensive.

Then, we’ve got the “zoom” digital camera with a 64 MP sensor. Just like final yr, there isn’t actually a telephoto lens right here to supply true optical zoom. Instead, Samsung picked a high-resolution sensor and gives the telephoto impact by cropping to the middle. So, sure, it’s mainly a 3x digital zoom.

If you need to actually pixel-peep, then sure — this zoom digital camera gives barely softer portraits than a devoted 3x telephoto digital camera. But I’d say it’s nonetheless very usable and never one thing you have to be too involved about.

Then we’ve got the ultra-wide digital camera with its personal 12 MP sensor. Again, it’s an excellent total performer with a incredible dynamic vary. You can use this one for some panorama photographs or when recording motion movies the place it’s onerous to maintain the topic within the body. Of course, it’s a bit softer within the particulars than the principle shooter, however there’s positively some software program sharpening happening right here as properly to counteract that.

The huge deal concerning the Galaxy S21 line’s digital camera was improved night-time efficiency. Upon listening to that, my preliminary response was “Well, it was pretty great on the Galaxy S20, how do you even improve that?”.

And sure, I can affirm that evening photographs with the Galaxy S21 do come out a bit extra uncovered and sharper than with the S20, nevertheless it’s not an enormous leap. If you might be coming from an older system, like an S10 or under, you’ll positively be delighted with the outcomes, although.

On the video aspect of issues, we nonetheless have 8K video recording at 24 frames per second, which sounds spectacular on paper, however I’d truthfully keep away from it. It’s simply that method an excessive amount of processing energy is required to seize a clip at that decision and an absence of noise-reduction, stabilization, and dynamics within the value you pay.

How to document 8K video on Galaxy S21

Move right down to 4K video and also you’re golden. Even extra, the Galaxy S21 can document 4K at 60 FPS with any of its 4 cameras, so it’s protected to say that 4K is changing into the usual that 1080p has been for therefore lengthy.

The movies, identical to the photographs, come out shiny and vivid, prepared for each your social media and memorabilia vault. The microphone is fairly good at choosing up detailed sound that doesn’t sound tinny, and the stabilization is incredible at neutralizing shaky cam.

It would not be a Samsung cellphone if we did not have a plethora of Camera instruments, modes, and choices. The fascinating one right here is the brand new Director View, which supplies you a relentless, real-time feed preview from all 4 cameras. So, you’ll be able to swap them on the fly.

Samsung Galaxy S21 speaker high quality

The S21 sports activities a stereo speaker setup we’re all too accustomed to — a booming bottom-firing driver and an earpiece that doubles as a tweeter. It sounds good — fuller and bassier than final yr’s Galaxy S20 telephones, and never as ice-picky as your iPhone audio system. The mids are nonetheless mushed up and tinny-sounding and I’m nonetheless not floored by the sound high quality, however there’s solely a lot a small cellphone can do (I nonetheless don’t know how the Google Pixel 4 XL managed to sound so, so good).

Samsung Galaxy S21 software program and efficiency

Another yr, one other software program replace. The Galaxy S21 comes with Samsung’s One UI 3.1 on prime of Android 11 out of the field. One UI 3 led to a visible overhaul and a few further options, primarily pertaining to how notifications are displayed and interacted with.

I can’t say I’m an enormous fan of the brand new visible type — it leans closely into these huge, semi-transparent, flat playing cards that hardly slot in, particularly in opposition to the super-colorful and enjoyable default wallpapers. I discovered that it appears to be like lots higher in case you simply put it in darkish mode and don’t look again.

But when it comes to options — oh, child, One UI has a studying curve. You can actually simply decide the cellphone up and use it as you’ll, however if you wish to go down the trail of Advanced Settings — that’s a rabbit gap of its personal. You can have notifications come up as bubbles, detailed playing cards, or mini playing cards, you’ll be able to have the sting of the display mild up a particular coloration when a pre-set key phrase is talked about in your newest e-mail, you’ll be able to change the shortcuts in your lockscreen. There’s simply an excessive amount of to enter right here, however relaxation assured — One UI is an onion with a ton of layers.

As far as efficiency goes, the Galaxy S21 is, properly, an absolute powerhouse. Whether you have got the US model (Snapdragon 888 processor) or the worldwide version (with a Samsung Exynos 2100 processor), you’ve acquired a cellphone that’s snappy, responsive, and may just about steamroll by means of something that’s up on the Play Store.

Taken with the Exynos 2100 model


The 120 Hz refresh price of the display solely emphasizes that, with super-responsive contact controls and further clean animations. There’s no query, the S21 is a flagship cellphone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 battery life

The Galaxy S21 comes with a 4,000 mAh battery — similar because the S20 earlier than it. However, the Galaxy S21 does have a supposedly extra energy-efficient processor, constructed on a 5 nm course of, and it does make use of an adaptive refresh price, which drops right down to 48 Hz while you don’t want clean movement.

Supposedly, that’s meant to delay battery life over a single cost, although, we didn’t discover any enchancment with our testing. Depending in your use case, you’ll be able to anticipate something between 5 and 9 hours of utilization time with the Galaxy S21.

Don’t get me fallacious, that’s nonetheless very, superb. On a traditional day of use, the Galaxy S21 has loads of juice leftover within the night and I by no means ever felt pressured by low battery percentages. I used to be only a bit extra hyped that we may even see a slight enchancment on this space, and we didn’t.

In any case, the Galaxy S21’s battery is actually reliable.