Review: Samsung Galaxy S21 5G – Samsung has accelerated the launch of its flagship Galaxy line this year . According to press reports, the S20 series sold below expectations. To blur the bad impressions of a poorly refined smartphone, the Koreans first of all improved the processor. Exynos 2100 is to be devoid of the worst feature of Exynos 990, i.e. the tendency to overheat. True Samsung limited this a bit with an appropriate update, but of course it came at the cost of a reduction in performance. Now both efficiency and heat generation are to be on a normal, flagship level. However, Koreans still use two processors in their flagships. Snapdragons are available for the American and Chinese markets, other countries get Exynos. It has always caused a lot of controversy and dissatisfaction, because Samsung’s proprietary processors are less efficient and have problems with temperatures. This time, however, it may be different, because as Xiaomi Mi 11 reviewers report , which were the first to receive the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, it has a tendency to …
The Galaxy S21, the smallest of this year’s models, offers what Samsung has always been valued for – a perfect screen and great photos. It is also neat and the cheapest of the entire series. Of course, this does not mean that it is cheap – you have to pay PLN 3899 for the 128 GB version, and there is no memory card slot. There is also no charger and headphones, in a tiny box we only find a cable with a USB-C ending on both sides. Everyone said manufacturers were likely to follow Apple when the company gave up adding chargers to the kit, but no one expected it to happen so quickly. Samsung has also saved on materials, because the back of the phone is made of plastic, not covered with glass. So let’s see if the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G worth the money.
How do we rate design? – 5
The smartphone, compared to the S20 model, is an evolution rather than a revolution. Of course, the most controversial is the camera island connected to the device frame. I like this procedure very much, because at least it looks original and different than in the rest of the smartphones. But there are also many opponents of this look, just look at any phone fan forum. In any case, the S21 does not leave anyone indifferent and that is already something. Similar to the S20 FE the back is made of plastic, not glass. It is nicely matted and pleasant to the touch, it does not collect fingerprints, but it is difficult to classify them as premium materials. The purple color of our test model looks nice and original in my opinion. Although not everyone has to like the golden frame.
On the lower edge there is a slot for two SIM cards, next to it is USB-C and one of the two speakers. The right side is the buttons for switching on and volume control, on the top and left side there are nothing but antenna stitching.
The dimensions of the device are 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm and the weight is 169 g. This means that the smartphone is rather small and handy for today’s trends. In any case, one-handed operation poses no problems.
What do we think about the display? – 5
The panel has a diagonal of 6.2 inches. It was made in Dynamic AMOLED technology. Compared to the S20 , the resolution has been lowered, which is now standard FHD + (1080 x 2400 pixels, 424 PPI) and not QHD. The screen refresh is adaptive 120 Hz with the possibility of lowering it to 60 Hz. It supports HDR10 +, the maximum brightness can reach 1300 nits. The aspect ratio is 20: 9. A small hole for a selfie camera is centrally located at the top. The screen is flat and has a protective film attached to it, and it is also protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
The impressions of use are only positive. The S21 has great viewing angles, excellent color reproduction, comfortable minimum and maximum brightness. Instead of the notification LED, we have information displayed on the screen showing notifications from each application. In the settings, we will turn on the dark mode, change the screen mode (vivid or natural) and white balance (cold, warm, or according to our preferences) in the RGB range.
Samsung has clearly improved the operation of the fingerprint reader, which can finally compete with the competition’s flagships. The finger reading is lightning fast and error-free. Alternatively, you can face unlock your phone – just as fast and hassle-free.
Specification / Operating System –
Samsung Galaxy S21 is powered by Exynos 2100 (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1; 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78; 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55) with Mali-G78 MP14 graphics chip. We have 8 GB RAM and two memory versions 128 and 256 GB. In AnTuTu Benchmark, the phone reached 600377 points, which places it among the top most efficient devices.
The most important information – the phone does not get hotter than other devices. When performing the test, it became warm, the same happens, for example, when shooting movies in 8K or while playing. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to accurately measure temperatures, but subjectively they are on the level of other devices and certainly far from the temperatures obtained by the S20 line at the time of its debut. I am glad that the manufacturer will learn from the mistakes in the previous model. Thanks to adaptive refreshing, page scrolling is very fast and, above all, smooth, and loading programs are lightning fast. At the beginning of the tests, the only cuts I noticed when using the camera app extensively, but after the last update installed, which i.a. it improved its operation, and here too everything became very smooth.
The phone is great at multitasking and doesn’t tend to close tabs held in memory. Of course, there is no problem with games (tested on PUBG), there is a special Game Launcher in the software.
The sound on external speakers is of good quality, but it lacks a lot compared to the Pixel 5 we tested recently . On the other hand, the S21 is perfect for wireless headphones. We paired it with Samsung Buds Live and the experience was perfect. It’s good to install the Galaxy Wearable application , in which we have an equalizer and a lot of modes, incl. gaming experience that minimizes latency. If we want to connect the headphones on the cable, we will need a Samsung adapter , the phone does not work with others.
S21 meets the IP68 standard. GPS works perfectly and so does NFC. The quality of voice calls is at an excellent level.
The communication package includes: 5G, LTE, dual band WiFi, USB 3.2, Bluetooth 5.1, Samsung Dex and Windows integration. Location is realized using: GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo. The sensor kit includes: Accelerometer, Proximity, Light, Magnetometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Gravity, Hall Effect and Fingerprint Reader.
The Galaxy S21 works on Android 11 with the One UI overlay. Security fixes are in January. The overlay improves with each new version, for example I was very happy that on the left of the main desktop we no longer have a Samsung summary of the day, but a Google tabwith the articles of interest to us. There are many small but practical functions, such as double-tapping the screen to turn it on or off, silencing the ringer with gestures or keeping the screen on while we are looking at it. Of course, there is a game zone, a sidebar, there is a Dex or Windows connection, we can also receive SMS and calls on other devices. There is also a dual messenger, i.e. logging in with a second account in social applications. Of course, there are wallpapers, themes, and everything is logically and clearly arranged.
What photos does he take and what films does he record?
There are three cameras on the back:
- 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
- 64 MP, f/2.0, 29mm (telephoto), 1/1.72″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 1.1x optical zoom, 3x hybrid zoom
- 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.55″ 1.4µm, Super Steady video
The selfie camera is 10 MP, f / 2.2, 26mm, 1 / 3.24 “, 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF.
So the camera set has not changed compared to the previous model. The application is very polished, but it took me a while to realize that Portrait Mode was hidden under the name “vertical”. Apart from this linguistic slip-up, I have nothing to complain about. The lower bar with the most frequently used functions can be freely configured, there is a professional mode for photos with the possibility of saving in RAW. There is also all mandatory driving, i.e. scene optimizer (AI), automatic HDR, panorama, night mode, slow motion, food, hyperlapse, one shot or the ability to take a photo with a maximum resolution of 64 MP. The highest zoom value is 30x.
The quality of the photography is excellent, although it’s hard to say compared to the S20a lot has changed. Photos from the main lens are very effective and pleasing to the eye, although you can see that the phone turns up the colors, which slightly differ from what our eye registers. The focus is immediately captured and the phone maintains it perfectly, which is especially useful when photographing animals and small children. In any case, taking a blurry photo with it is quite an art. The wide angle is slightly different in quality from the main mesh, but these are minimal differences. If someone is disturbed by distortions at the edges of the frame, he can turn on the ultra-wide shape correction in the settings. The zoom is of excellent quality and up to 10x magnification in good light is suitable for publication on social media. Night photos taken in the city scenery are very good. It is similar with the portrait mode which very precisely cuts the foreground and blurs the background nicely. Selfies also have a satisfactory amount of details and very good quality.
We can record video in 8K, 4K 30 and 60 FPS resolutions and lower. In the settings we find a manual mode with the possibility of manual settings. A very interesting solution is also the ability to select the direction of the recorded sound and connect a Bluetooth microphone or a headset. Thanks to this, you can move freely and our voice will be perfectly picked up all the time. The quality of the movies is great, the stabilization is fabulous, as is the amount of detail recorded.
How long does the battery last?
We come to a point that many people are waiting for. Because the battery has always been the weakest point of the smallest Samsung flagships. This time it is better than the previous models. The link is enough for a whole day’s work, but only if we won’t, for example, take a lot of photos or shoot a lot of movies. Because in such a situation the battery flies quite fast. During a 2.5-hour photographic walk with connected Bluetooth headphones, the charge level dropped from 65 to 15 percent. However, if I was using the phone normally, I had enough energy from morning to evening, with about an hour of bedtime video session with the screen-on working time oscillating between 4 and 5 hours. So there is no madness, but no tragedy either. Due to the lack of a charger, I charged the phone mainly with a 12W inductive charger and it took about 2h 15 minutes. The maximum wired charging power is 25W. The phone also supports 4.5W reverse charging.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 is quite a controversial device. Looking only at the specs, the device is backing down from the S20 . It has a lower screen resolution and is made of inferior materials (plastic instead of glass). However, when we put the specs aside, the S21 is a much better devicein everyday use. It does not heat up, the screen, despite the lower resolution, is great anyway and certainly no one will notice the difference, and the plastic backs are nice and more practical. Of course, the price still remains – PLN 3899 for the 8/128 version is a lot, but it is still less than the price of theS20 at the debut. So it is expensive, but you can see that Samsung reduced his appetite a bit. Perhaps the mishap with the previous model made him think.
Who is the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G for :
- People taking a lot of pictures
- Vloggers and people who require the highest quality videos
- People who like neat phones
- Needing an efficient branded device
- People requiring inductive charging
- People requiring waterproofing
Who is not Samsung Galaxy S21 5G for :
- People who need a phone with a very good battery
- People requiring the use of premium materials
- People looking for the best price / quality ratio
The main pros and cons of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
Advantages of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G :
- beautiful screen
- adaptive refresh up to 120 Hz
- handy size
- perfect photo quality
- great stabilization of movies
- the ability to record video in 8K
- inductive charging and reverse charging
- stereo speakers
- very good in-screen fingerprint reader
- AoD showing notifications from all applications
- Wake up and blank the screen with double tap
- water resistance
Disadvantages of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G :
- no charger and headphones included
- plastic backs
- average working time on a single charge
- average sound quality from stereo speakers
- no mini-jack socket
- no memory card slot (in our version the smartphone has only 128 GB)
- High price