Galaxy S21 review: The no-brainer upgrade phone
S21 5g let’s get this review going. The gaussian s21, along with the galaxy s21 plus and the galaxy s21 ultra, make up the 2021 s series lineup. The big headline here is the fact that in the us, samsung was able to cut 200 off of the price of each phone. Clearly, this probably wasn’t done out of generosity but to hit that price, especially on the galaxy s21 trade offs were made like the removal of a walled charger and headphones from the box. The removal of the micro sd card slot from the phone, the removal of four gigabytes of ram, the removal of half the pixels from the screen, the removal of gorilla glass from the back. I could go on even with those sacrifices. The galaxy s21 and its starting price of 800 dollars in the us is far more interesting and appealing than the s20 of last year. In fact, the s21 lineup has more to distinguish one phone from another that makes the s21 the no brainer you’re due for an upgrade phone that you get from a carrier and uh yeah. A lot of people are going to get this phone now i want to acknowledge the design. The two tone approach gives the phone um an art, deco sensibility. I mean okay, samsung, embraced the camera bump majorly and it made it bigger and more industrial. Looking. I could almost envision someone at samsung searching to find the perfect drill press to make the camera cutouts just the right size.
The bump, seemingly melts into the sides this purple and gold s21 that i reviewed called phantom violet gives off some major mardi gras vibes other phantom colors for the s21 include gray, pink white and there’s limited edition, phantom colors of gold and red, which are only available On samsung’s website, the back is polycarbonate aka plastic. It has a matte finish and feels great in the hand. Now people have strong feelings about pla. The p word on phones, but the s21 feels well made. It lacks the hollow feel. A plastic phone from five or six years ago might have around the front is gorilla glass victis, which we first saw on the galaxy note 20 ultra as a complete package, the s21 has a very striking design. My only worry would be someone mistaking the microphone hole on the bottom of the phone between the usbc port and the sim card tray as the place to eject the sim card which, by the way, the s21 has dual sim card. Support for both a physical card and an e sim, okay let’s talk about the display the hole punch display which samson calls the infinity o screen is my favorite workaround for not having a notch or bigger bezels. The s21’s flat display looks very contemporary. It has a full hd resolution, which is a step down from the quad hd resolution on the s20. Now i can’t say that a full hd display looks better than a quad hd one, because it probably it doesn’t but it’s, not as dramatic of a change when i’m using the phone every day, and i think a lot of that comes from the adaptive screen.
Refresh rate that can go from 48 up to 120 hertz, depending on what’s being displayed and yeah. It just makes for a great experience now curious. Addition is the new eye comfort shield setting, which is just like the blue light filter setting we’ve seen on previous samsung phones, but it’s automatically adjusted based on time, that’s it okay, so powering the s21 is the new qualcomm snapdragon 888 chip, along with eight gigabytes of Ram and yes, that’s, four eights and uh, i wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of performance having four gigabytes less ram than the galaxy s20. Now, in our benchmark test, the s21 scored better than last year’s s20 and in use it handled everything from photo edits to gameplay at 120 hertz just fine. The 888 chip allows for some new features too, like the director’s view, which i’ll talk more about in a moment. The only tell that the phone was working hard was the back got warm downloading large files like games and videos or playing um a game longer than 20 minutes. One time i should note that the phone got really hot running the benchmark test 3d mark in the battery settings. I had enhanced performance enabled, which targets all apps, that aren’t games and 3dmark is not a game but it’s a benchmark for gaming. Anyway, i turned enhanced performance off and ran 3dmark again, and the phone didn’t get hot, weird right when it comes to battery life.
This is definitely a one day phone which is on par with last year’s s20 that had the exact same size battery i like having adapter fresh rate screen to help keep the battery drain at a minimum and, at the time i’m recording this video. I still have several battery exhaustion tests to run so check out my written review on cnet.com for updates on that now i want to shout out something i’m, seeing more and more on android phones and that’s software to help optimize and take care of the battery. It can help close apps as well as lets. You set limits of background use of the battery by apps, uh, choose charging speeds for wired and wireless charging, and i think it’s really smart, especially if you’re gon na be owning the s21 for two or three years. In terms of cameras, well, hardware wise, they are exactly the same as the ones on the s20, which i found were quite good. So just a quick refresher on the back are three cameras, a wide ultra wide and a telephoto camera. I rather like the ultra wide on the s21. It might be my favorite ultrawide camera on android right now. Now photos are really good for selfies. You now have an option for bright or natural, which is excellent, and i want to apologize for how much you’re going to see my face but hey quarantine times. Am i right, i think selfie skin tones look really good, especially with all the face effects turned off.
I should say there are people who well, they really want to have the option for looking the way they want. So there’s that, on the backside for photos, autofocus is fast and can switch between foreground and background objects very quickly in video autofocus, switching isn’t as fast, but when it grabs focus, it seems to hold on to it pretty good in the camera app when i’m in Video mode i like having a button at the top to toggle between different resolutions and frames per second now one issue: some people had with the s20 series last year was skin tone. So i took several photos of myself using the rear cameras in the default camera mode. The rear cameras in the default camera mode with the face filter, turned off uh portrait mode with skin softening set to zero and pro mode, and, as you can see, there are some differences and again some of this is going to come down personal preference, but i Don’T think it’s as bad as some of the results we saw in the s20 last year. Samsung added a fun new video feature called director’s view, and it allows you to do a couple different things. You can record just from one camera at a time, but get a thumbnail preview of live feeds. Coming from all the other cameras on the phone, you can also go into a side by side format, kind of like vlogger mode. It lets you record yourself via the selfie camera and then what you’re, seeing or reacting to with any of the rear cameras and what’s great is you could switch between those rear cameras while you’re recording i got ta say i thought director’s view would be more like A gimmick kind of like single take, which i think is a gimmick and that’s the one that records photos and videos and you know, identifies moments and gives you a variety of options.
But i could definitely see people who’d want to use director’s view, especially with the kind of control and convenience those live thumbnail feeds give you it outputs as hd video and i can’t find a way to save director’s view as 4k or 8k, and i would love To see this thumbnail preview interface, when recording a 4k video, it would just truly add some professional polish let’s talk about one ui 3.1, which i really like. You have even more ways to default to google services like google pay or adding the google discover news feed to the home screen small touches like pop up windows for adjusting audio, look clean and modern and i’m. A big fan of how much the software is weighted toward the bottom of display, which makes one handed navigation all the more easy. I also got to try out the galaxy smart tag which you can clip to a backpack or keys. It not only helps track their location, but you can also play an audio alert to find them now. This version uses bluetooth and the built in battery will last one year, at least according to samsung, but good news, it’s replaceable. I really don’t know how to review this thing except long term and just using it every day until i actually truly misplace or lose an item that one of these is connected to and just hope that it works. So i could find it so there and last let’s talk 5g.
The s21 supports both sub 6 and millimeter wave meaning in the us. You have your choice of carriers for the s21, which is great. I still think 5g is not the sole reason to get this phone, but for many people the s21 will be their first 5g phone and as carriers and their 5g networks get better and have more coverage. You’Re going to see your speeds and connections improve. Look overall, the s21 is a significant rethink by samsung, who may have tried to push the s20 a little too far into the premium territory last year, but i think samsung found a good balance in terms of price and features and design on the s21. So that’s, all i got make sure you check out my written review on cnet.com, where i go even more in depth on the s21 and its features, oh, and also check out my galaxy s21 ultra review video, but now i’d like to hear from you.