The Galaxy S21 is the “smallest” and “cheapest” member of the Samsung flagship family; it is neither an Ultra nor a Plus. The base storage tier will cost you $800, so it’s still not a cheap phone by any means.
Is it… worthwhile? It has the newest Sammy tech, including a 120Hz screen and a Snapdragon 888 (or Exynos 2100) processor, and it looks fantastic. It is quick and enjoyable to use, and its camera is also rather good.
I have a few issues with it. In addition to having a plastic back, it also did away with the curved “Edge” screen that Samsung flagship models have featured for many years.
Yes, these are relatively minor issues, but they immediately put the Galaxy S21 on par with the significantly less expensive Galaxy S20 FE. The latter has a $700 MSRP but is frequently available for as little as $550. Additionally, the S20 FE has a flat screen, a plastic back, quick hardware, and a gorgeous 120Hz screen.
Alternatives to the Samsung Galaxy S21
In addition to the Galaxy S20 FE mentioned above, there are a few other devices that compete with the Galaxy S21. Even though it has less camera functions than the S21, Apple’s iPhone 12 doesn’t goof around and gives you access to the iOS ecosystem. The OnePlus 9 also has super-fast charging, and, hey, the charger is included in the package.
Aspects of the Samsung Galaxy S21’s design
The Galaxy S21 is clearly a Samsung phone; while it has a design that strangely evokes memories of the Galaxy S7, it nevertheless appears contemporary and new. I really like the camera module’s design because it melds with the device’s frame and gives some hues, like the Phantom Violet we have here, that duo-tone appearance.
It handles well; although it is not a little phone, by today’s standards it is a “compact” phone. Overall, using it one-handedly and taking it out and putting it back into a pocket are simple actions. The S21 is generally fine in that regard, however it still doesn’t seem as light as the beloved Galaxy S10, which is still my personal favorite in terms of handling.
Unfortunately, I believe that the lack of a glass back somewhat detracts from the product’s overall luxury impression. It is true that the polycarbonate is of a high quality and has been treated to have a matte finish. However, the clack and warm, smooth touch of plastic are still present.
You spoilt reviewer, you. Most people already protect their phones with cases! I’ll give it to you. But many people don’t. Whether or not we plan to add aftermarket additions to a $800 piece of technology shouldn’t make us stop caring about its design and construction.
Since quite some time, we haven’t seen a Samsung flagship with a screen without corners that are curved (since the Galaxy S7). Users and Samsung’s Edge screens have always had this love-hate connection. Yes, they do have a great appearance, but as you try to move the phone about in your hand, they essentially attract ghost touches. And unless they have a fairly thick lip, they are typically difficult to guard.
I, for one, long for the curved screen. When comparing the S20 and S21 side by side, I think the former is more upscale and attractive (but the S21 clearly wins from the back!). The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only model of the S21 family that offers an Edge screen. However, if you are in the anti-Edge camp, you’ll be quite content with the S21 and S21+ options available to you.
Camera Samsung Galaxy S21
A Galaxy S used to have the best features that Samsung had to offer back in the day. It’s a little bit more difficult now. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the greatest camera, while the Galaxy S21 and S21+ are… a step below.
Does this imply that we should sneer at the Galaxy S21’s camera? In no way! The quality and dependability are exactly what we’ve come to expect from Samsung.
Here, the primary camera sports a 12 MP sensor with substantial 1.8 m pixels. Samsung photographs always turn out bright and well-exposed because of the enormous amount of light it collects. Additionally, it has a remarkable dynamic range, which keeps shadow details visible and prevents white blotches from developing in highlights.
In all honesty, it performs quite well, nearly identical to the Galaxy S20’s camera. Although colors are heavily saturated to give images a distinctive “pop,” they are largely true to reality. Only when the grass is green and the sky is blue are we likely to see an accident. The latter is more frequently, in my opinion, a little too brilliant and artificial.
The details are always clear; yet, Samsung phone cameras seem to constantly balance between sharp detail and oversharpening. You might notice a little bit of oversharpening here and there depending on the setting and your current illumination, but I wouldn’t say it’s offensive.
Speaker quality of the Samsung Galaxy S21
The dual speaker system on the S21 has a loud bottom-firing driver and an earpiece that serves as a tweeter.
It sounds excellent, not as finicky as your iPhone speakers but broader and bassier than last year’s Galaxy S20 phones. There’s only so much a little phone can do, and the mids are still compressed and tinny-sounding. Despite this, I am still unimpressed with the sound quality (I still have no idea how the Google Pixel 4 XL managed to sound so, so good).
Software and performance of the Samsung Galaxy S21
Another software update, another year. Samsung’s One UI 3.1 is preinstalled on top of Android 11 on the Galaxy S21 right out of the box. One UI 3 changed the way notifications are displayed and interacted with visually, as well as adding some new functionality.
Please don’t misunderstand; that is still very, very nice. The Galaxy S21 has plenty of battery life left over after a typical day of use, and I never once felt under pressure from low battery levels. I was slightly more optimistic than usual that we may experience a modest uptick in this regard, but we didn’t.