Smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S21 Review

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Samsung Galaxy S21 is a mid-range phone with a top name. Instead of providing significantly similar prestigious phones at various sizes, Samsung got aggressive on its prices this year. Galaxy S21 price starts at $799.99 for the smaller version with a 6.2-inch screen, while the price of $999.99 is for the Plus version with a 6.7-inch display. However, the intelligent move is to spend an additional $50 for the models with 256GB of storage.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Design 

Image Source: CNet

From the front, the Galaxy S21 looks much like the Galaxy S20, with its complete 6.2-inch display and a smooth punch-hole selfie camera placed in the top middle of the screen. You will see that the S21 has its predecessor’s curved display with flat edges with a closer look. Its flat edges lead to the metal edges flowing to the new “Contour Cut” camera design, where the rear camera module seems to fit into the S21’s left-hand edge and the back.

Besides, the metal was replaced by what’s debatably Galaxy S21’s most significant transformation: a plastic back. Samsung refers to it as polycarbonate, but it’s typically fancy plastic, but the S20  used glass. Opting for a plastic back is likely the most prominent reason Samsung can offer the Galaxy S21 at its lower price. It is available in different color options: Phantom Pink, Phantom White, Phantom Gray, and Phantom Violet. 

Image Source: CNet

It measures 6 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches and weighs 6.07 ounces, and the Galaxy S21 is a little smaller, although a little heavier than the Galaxy S20, measuring 5.9 x 3 x 0.31, and weighs 5.7 ounces. But it has the proper size and weight for one-hand use; small enough for your thumb to attain two-thirds of the display, but big enough to watch videos comfortably. The Galaxy S21’s in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader is very responsive due to Qualcomm’s new scanner, which is 1.7x bigger and 50% faster than the former generation. 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus shows off an incredible redesign. Samsung’s certainly paid attention to detail and build quality. This is an accurately well-built smartphone. It possesses a gorilla Glass Victus at the handset’s front and back, providing firm protection from drops and cracks. Although, the glass may be a bit slippery. It is in contrast to the regular Galaxy S21 with its “glasstic” rear cover. It also possesses an IP68 rating for both water and dust protection, which has been standard in Samsung’s flagships for years.

In the security aspect, the phone has an in-display fingerprint reader that works fast. Facial recognition that occurs through the front-facing camera is also supported, and this works a fraction quicker than the fingerprint scanner. However, both security measures are fast and perfect enough that you may not even experience any issue whenever you unlock the phone. It’s important to note that the facial unlock is all software-based, and it’s not as safe as hardware-based options.

Image Source: CNet

The Galaxy S21 Plus provides an accurate well rounded hardware package that stays as a gold standard in the industry.

For the audio lovers crowd, there’s no return of the loving headphone jack here. However, it supports LDAC, AAC, aptX, SBC, and Samsung’s Scalable Bluetooth audio codecs for wireless headphones and others. The phone’s stereo speaker setup sounds excellent and gives proper stereo separation. But don’t hope to hear exceptional basslines from these little tucked-away drivers. FM radio is also added if you’re still listening to your tunes via the old-fashioned way.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Camera

Image Source: CNet

As regards Hardware, the Galaxy S21 cameras are precisely similar to the Galaxy S20. The triple camera array consists of a 64MP telephoto lens with 3x hybrid optic zoom and 30x space zoom,  a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a primary 12MP wide-angle lens.

But Samsung is pulling a Google and massively relying on software and computational photography upgrades to enhance the three rear cameras. Well, the Galaxy S21 accomplishes this. The Galaxy S21’s photo is flooded with color and detail, though as with the previous Galaxy phones, the colors are a bit more saturated than some other rival, such as Google Pixel 5.

Image Source: CNet

Also, the S21 selects some finer details, probably due to its telephoto camera. It’s important to note that if the Scene Optimizer feature is switched off, it uses AI to know what’s in-frame and modify the camera accordingly to get a fantastic shot. 

When outdoors with natural light, the S21’s primary camera does an excellent job. While it was intensely a perfect photography situation, the Galaxy S21 brings out more detail than the Pixel 5. Although, Pixel 5 provides a more dynamic range and colors that are truer to life. 

Image Source: CNet

Also, things may get a bit complex in lower-light situations or environments lit by artificial light. It was discovered that the Pixel 5 was relatively better at edge detection and resolving detail in low light areas, while the S21 sometimes displayed smudged and over-smoothed results. 

It may be that Galaxy S21 increased the ISO and brought in additional noise into the darker aspect of a shot as a consequence. But, I think this may likely be teething issues with the AI processing being applied to low-light areas. However, it’s an issue Samsung can fix with a software update. 

Image Source: CNet

Low light doesn’t work well with the portrait mode either. The non-portrait S21 photos fare better, and it might be because the portrait mode’s algorithm is contending to detect what’s in the foreground and what can be blurred out. In the right light conditions, the portrait mode is excellent for the rear and 10MP front-facing camera.

Night mode can also be used in every of the three Galaxy S21 cameras. Ultra-wide angle shots are quite expensive on the Galaxy S21, but when you zoom in, things come apart. While it captures a broader view than Pixel 5, zooming into a shot shows hazy details, and Google’s phone is a bit clearer. 

Image Source: CNet

The S21’s rear camera upgrades come into action with the telephoto camera’s 20x and 30x “Space Zoom.” The remarkably new Zoom Lock feature uses AI to identify the subject, perfect and steady the shot.

It works effectively well, and you can get incredible clearer shots for extreme zooms, even if you have shaky hands. The processing afterward smoothens the photo and brings out a zoomed shot that’s not a muddy mess. 

For the video front, the Galaxy S21 covers many bases. Like Galaxy S20, it provides about 8K capture at 24 fps, which is overkill for most, but it allows you to take high-quality photos while recording high-resolution videos. Other sophisticated features include 1080p video recording at 120 fps, which makes them excellently smooth. Concerning the smooth aspect, the Super Steady mode that uses AI to make up for shaky recording will work well on 1080p 60 fps video capture. 

Three cameras on the back upper left corner of the S21
Image Source: PCMag

Another significant feature is the new Director’s View whenever you’re shooting video. You can shoot with the front, and rear cameras simultaneously and also view live thumbnails from the various cameras. This makes it easier and simpler for you to switch to the best shot for your video. 

The portrait video, which is typically a rename of the live focus video, is also sleek, providing footage where the subjects focus while the background is blurred. Whenever you move around, you may notice that the S21 is working its algorithms, which occasionally results in over smoothing details on faces. Other camera upgrades include an enhanced Single Take feature that takes many stills and photos with a single tap. Single Take now offers Highlight Video and Dynamic Slow-Mo clips.

Summarily, Galaxy S21 delivers improved camera features over the Galaxy S20. But the S21 trades lots of blows with the Pixel 5 and surpasses Google’s phone in several areas. The ability to refine the AI and computational photography side by Samsung leaves many scopes for the S21s camera to improve over time.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Battery Life 

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The Galaxy S21 comes with a 4,000 mAh battery. It’s suitable for a smartphone of its size, although it’s not too good that Samsung didn’t increase the capacity a bit. Anyways, the adaptive refresh rate and advanced chip efficiency should offer a good battery life. When set at a 60hz refresh rate, the Galaxy S21 managed to run for 9 hours and 53 minutes during a battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness over 5G.

Image Source: CNet

However, it surpasses the 8 hours and 25 minutes of the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20, which lasts for 9 hours and 31 minutes, so the new silicon seems to be doing a good job.

While in its default “Adaptive” mode, which powerfully adjusts the display’s refresh rate, the Galaxy S21 lasted for 6 hours and 31 minutes. That isn’t cool, but it’s far from worse when you have a lively and energetic display with a 120Hz refresh rate. 

Charging is where things get a bit awkward. Fast charging is on offer on the USB-C PD standard, charging the battery to 55% in 30 minutes during a test. The issue is, you have to ensure that you have a charging brick to hand, as Samsung puts only the USB-C cable in the box. If you don’t have a charger, then you will buy a 25W charger from Samsung. 

Conclusion

Image Source: CNet

Honestly, the Galaxy S21 makes much sense for people who need a premium compact smartphone with superb design and extraordinary performance. The feel-good ability of the S21’s matte build is relatively comfortable, and the premium flagship design will undoubtedly turn heads. Asides from that, you have an exceptional display, IP68 certification, AKG-tuned stereo speakers, Android 11, outstanding cameras, and many more. 

Buy the Galaxy S21 if you need a compact flagship that provides excellent results in almost every aspect and can be satisfied with the average battery life.

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