Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is a more refined, sophisticated, and, most importantly, less expensive flagship phone.


Excellent dynamic 120Hz display

Performance that is powerful

Design refined

Powerful camera zoom


No microSD or charger slot

Back of plastome camera inconsistencies

Samsung Galaxy S21: Specs

OS: Android 11 with One UI 3

Screen size: 6.2 inches (2400 x 1080)

Rate of refresh:48-120Hz

Processor: Snapdragon 888


Storage: 128GB, 256GB

microSD none

Back cameras 12-megapixel wide (f/1.8) and 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) 64MP zoom (f/2.0) equipped with 3x hybrid zoom and 30x digital

Video: Up to 8K at 24 fps

Front cameras: 10MP

Battery: 4,000 mAh

The battery life is 9 hours 53 mins (60hz) 6-hours and 3 mins (adaptive)

Charging25W (charger is not supplied)

Colors: Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom White, Phantom Gray

Dimensions:5.97 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches

Weigh:5.95 ounces

For many years phones from the Galaxy S series have been all-purpose, multi-tasking phones. However, this year, with Samsung’s Galaxy S21, Samsung has taken away nearly all of the features it has upgraded. This recipe of disaster is actually a great Android phone that’s priced $200 less than Samsung’s Samsung Galaxy S20.

With its 6.2-inch display, three back cameras, and a 4000 mAh battery, the Galaxy S21 isn’t much of an improvement over the Galaxy S21. It does come with an updated camera module as well as color schemes along with the Qualcomm Snapdragon the 888. However, this Galaxy S21 turns out to be an update that is incremental; the major improvements are made with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra this time around.

Check out our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

These are among the top phones that you can purchase right now.

Check out our selection of the top Samsung phones.

There’s more to this story. Read this Samsung Galaxy S21 overview to learn why the removal of things has gone rather well for Samsung’s latest flagship phone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Price and release date

It is possible to purchase this Samsung Galaxy S21 right now on its own or with a contract.

In the U.S., for a starting price of $799, you could get the Galaxy S21 with 128GB of storage. But for $50 more for the model with 256GB for $849. This is $200 less than what the Galaxy S20 cost a year earlier — a huge saving.

The U.K. Samsung Galaxy S21 is priced with PS769 in the one-28GB version. To twice the storage capacity, the price is PS819. It’s worth noting that the 5G Galaxy S20 came in at PS899 which means that this S21 is PS130 less expensive.

Be aware that there’s only a USB C cable included in the box and you’ll have to buy the charger If you don’t own one already. Also, the S21 comes with only 8GB of RAM. There’s no option of getting the 12GB version of Samsung’s Galaxy S20 unless you decide to buy the much larger Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21 undercuts its most obvious competitor, that is the iPhone 12, which is priced at $879 for a device that comes with 128GB of storage. (The 799 iPhone 12 only offers 64GB of storage.) However, the S21 is higher priced than the $699 Google Pixel 5 which is less powerful in terms of raw specs but has a stunning camera.

Ironically, the recently released Samsung Galaxy S20 FE could pose a challenge at Galaxy S21. Galaxy S21 offers the same 120Hz display, nonetheless strong Snapdragon 865 processor, and three excellent rear cameras for just $699. The S20 FE may not be as powerful as the S21 however, it offers a lot to offer for a low price.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Design

From the front, the front, Galaxy S21 looks a lot like the front, it looks a lot like Galaxy S20, with its 6.2-inch display, which is complemented by an attractive punch-hole selfie camera at the middle of the display. If you look closer, you’ll notice the S21 has ditched the curved display of its predecessor and instead has flat edges.

This could sound like an upgrade, considering that the new phone isn’t like it’s as sleek as the old one and sleek, but I’m okay with it. I find that curving screens on Android phones that have displayed less than 6.5 inches are usually slightly difficult to hold, particularly since you’re able to use these phones with one hand. Larger phones tend to be more comfortable with curving edges when you’re doing fingers-worshipping to reach apps that are on the display’s outer edge.

The smooth edges of the Samsung Galaxy S21 lead to the edges of metal flowing into the brand new “Contour Cut” camera design in which the camera’s rear module appears to blend in with the left-hand edge of the Samsung Galaxy S21, and also the back.

The metal is replaced by what’s possibly the biggest Samsung Galaxy S21 improvement: a back made of plastic. Samsung refers to it as polycarbonate, but it’s actually expensive plastic, whereas the S20 uses glass.

A back made of plastic is likely to be the most important reason Samsung can sell its Galaxy S21 at a cheaper cost. While the absence of a glass back may appear strange for an expensive smartphone I was surprised to find it didn’t feel cheap. In addition, I think it’s a bit more luxurious than the polycarbonate that’s on the S20 FE’s back, but it also has a more tactile feel as opposed to the glass back Galaxy S series, making it less likely to slip out of your fingers or collect fingerprints. Personally, I’m glad to take advantage of the savings in the event that this keeps costs low.

The Phantom Violet S21 I had to test looks amazing even if it sounds absurd. The purple panel is a pleasant softness, and the subtle copper hue of the edges and camera bump make the S21 an almost retro sci-fi appearance like Star Trek meets Art Deco.

Three other colors such as Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, Phantom White — are available, but I’ve been unable to find them available in metal or plastic.

It measures 6 x 2.8 and 0.31 inches and weighs 6.07 ounces is the Galaxy S21 is a bit smaller and a bit larger than Galaxy S20 (5.9 x 3 x 0.31, 5.7 ounces). It is a perfect size and weight to be used for one-handed use. It’s small enough to allow my thumb to be able to reach about two-thirds of its display yet large enough for me to relax and binge watch hours of videos on.

The in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader is additionally more responsive, thanks to Qualcomm’s latest scanner that is 1.7x bigger and 50 percent quicker than the previous generation. I was able to find that the S21 did not always reject a quick swipe from my thumb which is great for my speedy temper.

The only thing that’s not perfect is that this: the Galaxy S21 dropped the microSD card slot that previous models have been sporting for a time. I’m not entirely sure the reason Samsung made this decision, since there’s no indication of limitations in storage capacity inside this Galaxy S21, nor would I anticipate that it’s going to alter the manufacturing cost by a significant amount. It could be a method for Samsung to get customers to purchase the 265GB model, but with the abundance of cloud storage options available for free, I’m not really concerned about the absence of expandable storage.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Display

Samsung has both lowered to upgrade the Samsung Galaxy S21’s 6.2-inch AMOLED display, which was the same size as the S20 earlier had. It’s no longer necessary to pick between an HD+ resolution that runs at 120Hz or QHD running at 60Hz as you could with Galaxy S20. Galaxy S20, but that’s because the S21 is the highest resolution model available, with 1080p resolution.

However, it is more restrictive. I believe it reduces any complexity. It is possible to make the display stick to 60Hz if you would like to squeeze as much battery life feasible, or you like a little blurring when browsing websites. However, you’ll be offered an option to choose a dynamic rate that permits the S21 to reduce its refresh rate from 120Hz to 48Hz, based on the specific task. This isn’t an upgrade that you’ll notice when not scrolling however it’s an intelligent one that will make the S21 more comfortable to use.

Tested it on its “natural” screen setting, the Galaxy S21 display delivers 109.2 percent sRGB coverage, 77.4 percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, as well as a Delta-E that is 0.29. That’s a good score however, both the iPhone 12 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra surpass that of the S21 with regard to coverage, and accuracy.

But, when used in a real-world setting, the Galaxy S21’s screen is stunning. Set it to “Vivid” mode and you’ll be able to see a lot of color and contrast even if the former is a little on the edge of oversaturation. It’s a great display to watch movies and videos and browsing Instagram images, and gaming on. Samsung has always had great displays on their Galaxy S phones, and the S21 is no exception.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Cameras

The hardware-wise physically, in terms of hardware, the Galaxy S21 cameras are exactly like those of the Galaxy S20. Its triple-camera array consists of the main wide-angle lens of 12MP as well as a 12MP ultra-wide and a telephoto lens of 64MP featuring a 3x hybrid optical zoom, and 30x space zoom.

However, Samsung is playing Google and is heavily relying on computational and software enhancements to boost the three rear cameras. In the majority of cases, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 achieves this.

We’ll start with the normal camera mode. Look at the picture below. With numerous shades and colors to consider, and the light coming from the left side, it gives an exercise for the smartphone camera.

The Galaxy S21’s photos are brimming with color and clarity however, as with Galaxy phones from the past its colors may be slightly more intense in comparison to that Google Pixel 5 I used to make a comparison. Pixel 5 delivers a warmer color and more authentic color and has a better dynamic range.

But when zooming into the S21 can be seen to reveal some more fine features, probably due to its telephoto lens that has the grille of the Aston Martin DB5 model Aston Martin DB5 and the numbers on the Vox headphone amp more clear than the Pixel 5’s picture.

It’s important to note that I turned off Scene Optimizer which makes use of AI to determine what’s in the frame and then adjusts the camera in order to capture the most effective shot. In real life, I believe that this could result in over-processing.

Outdoors with natural light and the main camera of the Galaxy S21 is excellent. Although it’s not an optimal photography scenario as shown in the image below it is clear that you can see that Galaxy S21 picks out more clarity over Pixel 5. Pixel 5 in the tower buildings to the right and the London’s Canary Wharf in the background. But it is clear that the Pixel 5 offers more dynamic colors and range that’s more accurate to the real world.

The thing is that things can get a bit difficult in low-light conditions or areas that are lit with artificial lighting. I discovered that Pixel 5 to be superior in these situations. Pixel 5 was better at resolution and edge detection in dim lighting and the S21 sometimes produces blurred and uneven results.

It’s really important to go in search of this I think it’s because of that the Galaxy S21 ramping up the ISO and adding more noise into the darker areas of a photo due to. I think this may be the result of some issues with the AI processing that is applied to dark areas and something that Samsung can fix through an update to the software.

A poor lighting situation doesn’t help in the portrait mode, either. Because of social distancing laws within the U.K. I was forced to take the photo with my dear friend Claire sitting on her porch when the sunset which meant that there was the problem of dealing with low lighting on one hand and a porch light on the other.

Pixel 5 is a great camera. Pixel 5 copes admirably, providing a more natural skin tone and highlighting the details in highlights and shadows. However, S21 isn’t as good with its smoothing and washing-out features. Claire’s face. The hair doesn’t see the details in her hair, especially on her left side.

Non-portrait S21 photographs are better and I’m assuming that the algorithm for portrait mode is having trouble distinguishing what’s happening in the foreground, and what needs to be blurred out. Something is something that the Pixel 5 is particularly good at.

In brighter lighting conditions in brighter light, the portrait mode works more suitable with regard to both the rear camera and front-facing camera. Take an image beneath Tom’s guide’s Mark Spoonauer as an example.

In addition, shooting objects rather than faces, it is possible to have the Galaxy S21 deliver a nice portrait image.

The Galaxy S21 doesn’t deliver the sharpest portrait cutouts as Google’s Pixel 5, as Samsung chooses to use a gentle blur. I prefer the sharpness of the Pixel 5 however the S21 has some good results.

Change into switching to S21 night mode and low-light issues disappear. In the photo below it’s clear that the S21 produces a bright and clear image that’s more precise (notably when it comes to street lights) over Pixel 5. Pixel 5. With more cameras to capture light and detail The S21 highlights the shortcomings in the dual cameras at the rear.

I am a fan of the colors that of the color palette that the Pixel 5 offers, though. The S21 appears to provide a lot of sharpening to night photos. Night mode can be utilized across all three Samsung Galaxy S21 cameras.

Ultra-wide angle images are expensive for Galaxy S21. Galaxy S21, but once you increase the zoom, things break to a halt. While it can capture a wider perspective than Google’s Pixel 5, punching into an image reveals blurred details while Google’s phone is much more clear. It’s up to you to decide that clarity is worth it for a higher-quality image.

It’s in zooms of 20x or 30x “Space Zoom” where the S21’s camera’s upgrades are in play. In particular, the brand-new Zoom Lock feature, which utilizes AI to determine the subject and stabilize the camera.

It works quite well and produces photos that are clear and clear even at such high zooms, even if aren’t the most steady of hands. The processing afterward removes the image and produces an image with a zoom that’s not a mess.

With Space Zoom I could capture an incredibly clear image of a tiny mint tin that was on my window from the other end in the area. I’m not certain how practical it would be for everyday smartphone photography however it’s a great demonstration of AI technology.

When it comes to video it’s this Galaxy S21 covers a lot of aspects. Similar to its predecessor the Galaxy S20 offers up to 8K video recording at 24 frames per second, which isn’t enough for the majority of users’ devices, yet it can take high-quality pictures while making extremely high-quality videos. Other features of the top-end models include video recording at 1080p at 120 frames per second which is super smooth. In terms of smoothness and smooth, there is you can use the Super Steady mode, which makes use of AI to correct for shakey recording, which can be used on 1080p 60fps video recording.

Another feature is the brand new Director’s View feature when shooting videos. You can shoot with both the rear and front cameras simultaneously as well as see live thumbnails on the various cameras. This makes it much easier to select the best footage of your footage. It’s quite effective and isn’t an esoteric trick than I initially believed.

Portrait video which the renaming of live-focus videos can be smooth, with footage that shows subjects are focused while the background blurs. If you are moving around frequently, you’ll be able to observe the S21 processing its algorithms, which can result in over smoothing the details of faces.

Other camera improvements include a new Single Take feature that takes several photos and stills with just a single click. Single Take now provides Highlight Video as well as Dynamic Slow-Mo videos.

If you take the above into consideration all of the above taken into account, when you consider all the above, the Galaxy S21 delivers an upgrade over the Galaxy S20. I’m not convinced it’s got the capabilities to beat off the iPhone 12 Pro Max off our top smartphone camera list, and the iPhone 12 could still have it on par, but the S21 competes with Google’s Pixel 5 and beats Google’s phone in a variety of different areas. The potential for further improvement in this AI as well as the computational imaging aspect by Samsung offers plenty of room for the camera of the S21 to improve with time.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Performance

In the U.S The Galaxy S21 comes with the most recent Snapdragon 888 processor, which promises 20% more performance of the CPU, 35 percent more GPU speed, and a boost in AI performance. Although there’s not a 12GB of RAM The S21 has plenty of memory with 8GB memory, and I did not experience any lag in my tests.

As for the benchmarks, putting the Snapdragon 888-equipped S21 through a set of tests, we saw the processor earn an overall score of 3,302 on Geekbench 5. It’s less than iPhone 12, iPhone 12, which ranked with a score of 3,859. However, the S21 is, not surprisingly, faster than the majority of Android phones that use the old Snapdragon 865.

In terms of graphics performance, the S21 reached 33 frames-per-second on 3DMark’s Wild Life graphics benchmark. It’s slower than an iPhone’s 39 frames per second however it’s better than other leading Android phones. In actual use, however, the S21 is a beast when it comes to games.

Each of Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9 Legends played well at max settings With their 120Hz refresh rates making the game smoother. It’s worth noting that when we played with the Snapdragon 808 Galaxy S21, I was playing with a phone running an Exynos 2100.

It is based on a five-nanometer process node, similar to the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 is based on a 5-nanometre process node Exynos 2100 is meant to bring 20% more energy efficiency as well as a 10% increase in performance over the previous generation 7nm Exynos 990. When testing it against the S2100 in Geekbench 5 with a score of 5, it earned 339 points, which is at par with the Snapdragon chip and is pleasing considering that Exynos chips previously lacked performance. in comparison to Snapdragon chips.

While playing those games along with a variety of other apps at the same time, I didn’t observe any slowdowns or unresponsiveness from the S21 even though its back was a bit warm.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Life of the battery and charging

As with its predecessor and its predecessor, it’s like the Galaxy S21 comes with a capacity of 4,000 mAh. It’s plenty for a phone of this size, however, it’s a shame Samsung didn’t increase the capacity. However, the adaptive refresh rate and the improved performance of the chip should result in longer battery life.

At a 60hz refresh rate, Galaxy S21 managed 9 hours and 53 minutes during Tom’s Guide battery test, which is a continuous web browsing with 150 nits brightness. The screen’s brightness is greater than 5G.

It’s not enough time to make it onto our most battery-powered phone list however it is better than that 8 hours, 25 minutes on the iPhone 12. It’s also about as long as Samsung’s Galaxy S20 with its 9 hours and 31 minutes, so the latest technology is working its magic.

In the standard “Adaptive” mode, which changes the display’s refresh rate it was its Galaxy S21 lasted 6 hours and 31 minutes. It’s not a great time however it’s not bad when you’re getting an impressive display that has 120Hz refresh rates.

Additionally, it is possible that the AI algorithms included in the S21 will learn more about my use of my phone in the course of time and help me optimize my battery’s performance, but it’s not an overnight event.

Chargers are where things get messy. The Samsung Galaxy S4 offers fast charging with the USB-C standard. It juices the battery up to 55% in just 30 minutes during our tests. The issue is that you have to ensure that you are carrying a charger on be on hand since Samsung does not include a USB-C cable inside the box. If you don’t own the charger, Samsung will provide you with a 25W charger.

Samsung has made a huge party about their choice of being eco-friendly; obviously, it will save Samsung money as well. In the end, I believe that this is the best choice regardless of the motive. In the end, reducing electronic waste is well worth the cost and discomfort it may cause to certain S21 customers who don’t in a state of being able to use phones charging.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: One UI 3 and software

Although I’ve been using Samsung phones for a long time, however, I’m not a huge enthusiast for the interface that it is able to offer on Android. With the advent of One UI in 2018, I’ve slowly gotten used to the Galaxy series’ version of Android, Google’s operating system for mobile phones. The One UI 3 featured on the Galaxy S21 (and now older Samsung models that have been upgraded up to Android 11) is built on this reputation.

The interface is sleeker and has a revamped Quick Panel as well as a notifications screen that is less overloaded. I particularly appreciate the newly designed lock screen widgets and the ability to put icons on the screen as well as alter their transparency.

The One UI 3 still comes with many possibilities to customize your Galaxy experience, something many will appreciate. However, it can be quite overwhelming when you only require a particular setting.

I must admit that I hate the main apps drawer on The OneUI. It’s not the third time around that the apps are placed in a random fashion which, when you’re switching from one phone loaded with apps to another could make choosing the right apps to use for setting up your home screen an issue of a small magnitude. When compared to the sleekness of the app drawer on the default Android Samsung’s app drawer is messy.

I know that Samsung wants me to utilize its services, but numerous other Android phones use Google features, including auto-filling passwords. However, One UI 3 tries to oblige me to make use of Samsung Pass and my Samsung account, which, ironically, I tend to forget my password for. It’s okay once you’ve got it set up however it can be difficult when you don’t get used to it. There is plenty of room for Samsung to make improvements here.

But, One UI 3 is superior to the earlier versions. It’s important to note that it includes many powerful tools, including Samsung DeX, which allows the Galaxy S21 and many other compatible Galaxy devices to be connected to an external monitor in order to transform the phone into an emulating Chrome operating system.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: What do you think of it? Galaxy S21 FE?

As the year progresses and the year progresses, the next question is what is a Galaxy S21 FE? The rumored successor of S20 FE S20 FE supposedly aims to give you the features it does that the Galaxy S21 offers for less. Given the low start cost of the S21 We’re not convinced regarding the necessity for in the form of an S21 FE, however, Samsung plans to make an unwieldy, confusing portfolio.

The Galaxy S21 FE isn’t confirmed as of yet, but it could be some time before it is launched. Its existence in the rumor mill doesn’t change our view of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 as we’ve stated in this article. It’s possible to keep waiting for the next major thing and we’re not anticipating that the Galaxy S21 FE to offer anything more than the one you got with the S21.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Should you purchase it right now?

If you’re using an older device, like that of the Samsung Galaxy S10Google Pixel 4, or the OnePlus 7T and you are interested, then upgrading up to Galaxy S21 is definitely worth it. If you own an older phone, such as Galaxy S20 or Google Pixel 5, then it’s probably not worth the cost. Galaxy S20 or Google Pixel 5 or Google Pixel 5, then you may be better off holding off.

This is because we have a variety of new phones available today, or coming in the near future. The most notable of them phones is an iPhone 13 model. iPhone 13. However, if you’re an Android enthusiast then you’ll be happy to know that the Google Pixel 6 is right just around the corner. In addition, it’s likely to see the release of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, that’s expected to be the most affordable and powerful alternative to Galaxy S21. Galaxy S21. The year is getting to an end is a bit early, so it might be best to hold off to see when the Galaxy S22 early in 2022. In the midst of Black Friday coming on, it’s possible that you’ll find the Galaxy S21 for cheap.

At the end If you’re in a hurry to upgrade, you won’t be wrong with Galaxy S21. Galaxy S21 as it’s still an excellent device that is less these days, particularly when you search online.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review: Verdict

With Samsung cutting as much off the phone as it can, I was ready to be disappointed by this phone, the Galaxy S21. However, I didn’t need to be worried.

Plastic back isn’t ideal for an expensive phone, however, I quickly adapted to the polycarbonate back, and the overall look for Galaxy S21 is stunning. Galaxy S21 is lovely, and also much more functional than the S20. The lack of improvements to the camera’s hardware was a bit disappointing however they still provide top-quality results and come with many tools and features to explore.

I would like to have witnessed Samsung extend the limits of hardware to this Galaxy S21, but that’s the sole responsibility that belongs to Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra. In making what I believe was the right decision in removing options such as Samsung’s Galaxy S21 still offers the top of the line flagship processors with a stunning display and powerful cameras. It’s an elegant smartphone for an affordable price. One that is sure to be a concern for those who own the iPhone 12.

The only thing that could fly in the ointment that of the Galaxy S20. If you already own one of the S20 then I doubt that you’ll benefit from upgrading. I think Samsung recognizes this, and the S21 is more suited to those who have old Galaxy phones or who are looking to upgrade to a new phone. If you’re in that situation, I strongly recommend that you take a look at taking a look at the Galaxy S21 as you won’t be disappointed.

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Roland Moore-Colyer Roland Moore-Colyer is the U.K. Editorial Director of Tom’s Guide with a focus on features, news, and opinion pieces. He is often writing about phones, gaming laptops, laptops, and other pieces of equipment; he’s even interested in automobiles. When he’s not working, Roland is often found walking through London and often with a grin of interest in his eyes.


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