Assessment: Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is the no-brainer improve cellphone

Assessment: Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is the no-brainer improve cellphone


The Galaxy S21 strikes a superb stability of options and worth which ought to make it interesting to lots of people.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S21 lineup is now accessible. Before you purchase one, the most important takeaway you should know concerning the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, together with the Galaxy S21 Plus 5G and Galaxy S21 Extremely 5G, is that Samsung reduce the US worth of every by $200 (the financial savings are much less in different nations). Clearly this wasn’t completed out of generosity and Samsung’s made trade-offs to hit that cheaper price on the Galaxy S21: The wall charger and headphones do not come within the field, the cellphone would not have a microSD card slot for expanded storage and it has 4GB of RAM lower than the S20. Samsung additionally eliminated half of the pixels from the display screen and changed the Gorilla Glass from the again with polycarbonate, which is a pleasant means of claiming plastic.

Even with these sacrifices, the Galaxy S21 and its beginning worth of $800 (£769, AU$1,249) is extra interesting than the S20. Actually, every cellphone within the S21 lineup has extra to tell apart it from each other than the S20 sequence did. Out of the trio, the S21 is the no-brainer “you are due for an improve” cellphone that you just’re more likely to get from a provider. And lots of people are going to get this cellphone.

Learn extra: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. S21 Plus vs. S21 Extremely: Specs comparability chart


  • Lower cost
  • Design
  • Android 11/OneUI 3.1
  • Excessive refresh price display screen

Do not Like

  • Much less RAM
  • Show is barely HD
  • Will get heat when utilizing it
  • Lacks a microSD slot

The S21 is a big rethink by Samsung, which can have tried to push the S20 to be too premium. However the firm discovered a superb stability when it comes to worth, options and design for the S21.

The Galaxy S21 will get a placing new look

For sure the very first thing I discover concerning the S21 is its design. This two-tone method offers the cellphone an art-deco sensibility. Nicely, sort of. Samsung made the digital camera bump larger and extra industrial-looking. I can virtually envision somebody at Samsung trying to find the right drill press to make the digital camera cutouts simply the proper measurement.

The bump seemingly melts into the perimeters. The purple and gold S21 I reviewed (the colour’s known as phantom violet) offers off some main Mardi Gras vibes. The S21 additionally is available in different “phantom” colours, together with grey, pink and white. On Samsung’s web site, there are limited-edition phantom colours in gold and pink.

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Assessment: The Galaxy S21 5G stunned us with its adjustments


The plastic again has a matte end and feels nice. I do know folks have sturdy emotions about plastic on telephones. However this is not the hollow-feeling plastic you discovered on telephones 5 or 6 years in the past. The S21 feels well-made.

Across the entrance is Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, which we first noticed on the Galaxy Word 20 Extremely. As a whole bundle ,the S21 has a placing design.

Decrease decision display screen with a excessive refresh price

The outlet-punch display screen, which Samsung calls the Infinity-O show, is my present favourite workaround for avoiding a notch or large bezels. The S21’s flat show with its petite black bezel appears actually up to date.

It has Full HD decision, which is a step down from the Quad HD decision on the S20. However in on a regular basis use, that is not as dramatic a change because it sounds. Loads of it comes from the adaptive display screen refresh price that fluctuates between 48 and 120Hz relying on what’s being displayed. So if you happen to’re enjoying a sport like Alto’s Odyssey, Name of Obligation or Forza Road you’ll be able to see them in all their crisp graphical magnificence. And whenever you aren’t, the show has a decrease refresh price as a way to save on battery life.


The S21 brings a brand new characteristic to its cameras known as Director’s View.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Identical S20 digital camera {hardware}, however with enhancements

The digital camera {hardware} on the S21 is strictly the identical discovered on the S20 and that is not a nasty factor. On the again are three cameras: a large, ultrawide and telephoto. I reasonably just like the ultrawide on the S21, it is likely to be my favourite ultrawide digital camera on an Android cellphone.

Pictures look nice. Autofocus is quick and might swap between foreground and background shortly. In video, autofocus switching is not as quick, however when it grabs focus it appears to carry on to it. I additionally like in video mode having an onscreen button on the high to toggle between totally different resolutions and frames per second.

Check out a number of photographs I shot with the Galaxy S21 beneath.


This was taken with night time mode on the Galaxy S21.

Patrick Holland/CNET


The constructing on this picture was about two blocks away. I took the picture at 10x magnification.

Patrick Holland/CNET


I attempted Single Shot mode on this lovely canine. The cellphone chosen this picture and even added a filter to it.

Patrick Holland/CNET


The ultrawide digital camera on the Galaxy S21 sequence is my favourite on any Android cellphone.

Patrick Holland/CNET


Here is one other night time mode picture. I’m stunned at how nicely balanced the S21 rendered the scene.

Patrick Holland/CNET

For selfies you now have an possibility for Brilliant or Pure. Which is superb. Pores and skin tones in selfie photographs look good, particularly with all the “face” results turned off. However I ought to be aware, there are individuals who prefer to have the choice. So, there’s that.


This selfie was taken with pores and skin smoothing turned off.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Samsung added a enjoyable new video characteristic known as Director’s View. Whilst you file, there are thumbnail previews of reside feeds coming from all the opposite cameras. There’s a side-by-side format for vlogging or a stacked format if you happen to’re capturing vertically. This allows you to file your self with the selfie digital camera and present what you are seeing or reacting to utilizing any of the rear cameras you select.

I believed Director’s View can be extra like a gimmick, however I can see folks desirous to experiment with it. The one draw back is that it outputs an HD video. However it’s the thumbnail preview that sells me on it. I would like to see this thumbnail preview interface once I’m recording a 4K video or as a Professional Video mode add-on.


In Director’s View, I can set the display screen as much as have my selfie video feed on the left and one of many three rear cameras on the proper. You possibly can swap between the rear cameras at any time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The S21 has the Snapdragon 888 chip

Powering the S21 is the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip together with 8GB of RAM. In our benchmark checks, the S21 scored higher than final 12 months’s S20. In use, it dealt with every little thing from picture edits to gameplay (at 120Hz) simply tremendous. The 888 chip additionally permits for some new options like Director’s View.

The one inform that the S21 was working laborious was that the again acquired heat downloading giant recordsdata like video games and movies, or once I performed a sport for longer than 20 minutes. One time whereas working the benchmark take a look at 3D Mark the cellphone heated up. Within the battery settings, I had Enhanced Efficiency turned on, which targets all apps that are not video games. 3D Mark is a benchmark app for gaming. I turned Enhanced Efficiency off and ran 3D Mark once more and the cellphone did not get scorching. Bizarre, proper?

Take a look at our benchmark scores beneath.

3DMark Slingshot Limitless


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Geekbench single-core


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Geekbench multicore


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Relating to battery life, this can be a one-day cellphone. It is on par with final 12 months’s S20, which had the identical sized battery. I nonetheless have a number of extra battery checks to run and can add the outcomes to this evaluation quickly.

The Galaxy S21 has Android 11 and OneUI 3.1

The S21 comes with Android 11 topped with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 interface. I find it irresistible. There are extra methods to default to Google providers, reminiscent of utilizing Google Pay as an alternative of Samsung Pay, or including the Google Uncover Information feed to the house display screen as an alternative of the Samsung model. There are additionally small touches like pop-up home windows for adjusting audio ranges that look clear and fashionable. There are additionally new widgets that you would be able to add to your lock display screen. I am a giant fan of how a lot the software program is weighted towards the underside of the show, which makes one-handed navigation simple. 

The Galaxy S21 helps 5G

And final, the Galaxy S21 is a 5G cellphone. It helps each sub-6 and mmWave variations of 5G, that means within the US you will have your selection of the three main carriers. 5G should not be the only real purpose to get this cellphone. However the S21 shall be many individuals’s first 5G cellphone and its speeds and connection ought to enhance as carriers hold enhancing their 5G networks.

Samsung Galaxy S21 specs vs. Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 FE, OnePlus 8T

Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S20 Samsung Galaxy S20 FE OnePlus 8T
Show measurement, decision 6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 3,200×1,440 pixels 6.5-inch tremendous AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 421ppi 563ppi 405ppi 402ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.80×5.97×0.31 in 2.72×5.97×0.311 in 6.29×2.97×0.33 in 6.33×2.92×0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 71.2×151.7×7.9mm 69.1×151.7×7.9 mm 159.8×75.5×8.Four mm 160.7×74.1×8.Four mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.03 oz; 171g 5.75 oz; 163g 6.7 oz; 190g 6.63 oz; 188g
Cell software program Android 11 Android 10 Android 10 Android 11
Digicam 64MP (telephoto), 12MP (wide-angle), 12MP (ultrawide) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 12-megapixel (normal), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (3x telephoto) 48-megapixel (normal), 16-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (monochrome)
Entrance-facing digital camera 10MP 10-megapixel 32-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video seize 8K 8K 4K 4K
Processor Snapdragon 888 Snapdragon 865 (5G) Snapdragon 865 (5G) Samsung Exynos 990 (4G) Snapdragon 865
Storage 128GB/256GB 128GB 128GB 128GB, 256GB
Expandable storage No As much as 1TB 1TB No
Battery 4,000 mAh 4,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 4,500 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No No No
Particular options IP68 ranking, 5G-enabled, 30x House Zoom, 10W wi-fi charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; waterproof (IP68) 120Hz display screen refresh price, assist for 30W quick charging and 15W quick wi-fi charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)
Value off-contract at launch (USD) $800 (128GB), $850 (256GB) $999 $699 $749
Value (GBP) £769 (128GB), £819 (256GB) £799 (4G), £899 (5G) £599 (4G), £699 (5G) £549
Value (AUD) $1,249 (128GB), $1,349 (256GB) AU$1349 (4G), AU$1,499 (5G) AU$999 (4G), AU$1,149 (5G) AU$1,149

First revealed Jan. 21.

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