Samsung Galaxy S21 review: The best Android phone for the money
The galaxy s21 is the entry level model of samsung’s new trio of flagships, and it offers a compelling mix of features for the price it starts at a more reasonable. Eight hundred dollars has a tiny hand friendly 6.2 inch screen and does away with the ridiculous 100 times space. Zoom, though you can still get that on the 1200 s21 ultra, the s21 still uses a high end processor and a speedy 120 hertz screen for smooth animations. The galaxy s21 is a distillation of what most users want and ditches the superfluous stuff, but in the land of sub 800 android phones, the s21 faces stiff competition. Last year i said the s20 didn’t have the most inspired design. Now i still wouldn’t call the s21 design inspired, but it’s a lot more attractive than its predecessor. I wasn’t sure about what samsung calls the contour cut housing for its rear cameras, but after a few days with my lavender and rose unit i’m sold. In addition to being pretty that extra bit of metal that wraps around the top left corner is a huge improvement over the floating hump from older models, because it doesn’t sit flush. This still leaves the surface of the rear uneven, but it’s less pronounced. Yes, there’s still a slight wobble when you place the s21 on a table, but it’s much less noticeable than the s20. The new flagship is also roughly the same size it’s just as tall and thick, but a hair wider at 171 grams or 0.
37 pounds it’s also. 8 grams heavier than its predecessor. Now this was surprising since i was expecting the s21’s polycarbonate body to be lighter than last year’s, glass and metal. Despite the change in material, the s21 still feels premium and sturdy. In fact, i prefer it to the oneplus 8t and the pixel 5, which weigh 188 grams and 151 grams respectively, while the s21 6.2 inch amoled panel is the same size as its predecessor. It has a lower 2400 by 1080 resolution. The iphone 12 has a smaller 6.1 inch screen and a higher resolution, which means it even has greater pixel density here, but i didn’t notice much of a difference. While i read articles and scroll through my instagram feed, though honestly, that 120 hertz refresh rate is a much bigger deal than pure pixel density, all it takes is 5 minutes with the pixel 5’s 90hz screen or the iphone 12 60hz one to make that clear, and Now you no longer need to scale down the s21 resolution to enable the high refresh rate for better or worse when you do enable that higher refresh rate by the way samsung is doing work on the back end to adjust the speeds between 48 and 120 hertz. Depending on what you’re doing frankly, i didn’t notice a huge difference. Everything seemed to scroll smoothly. What i did notice was how vibrant images and videos looked on the s21. I excitedly shared a picture. I took to instagram lotting the great colors and the lovely sunset only to realize later, when i was looking on a pixel 5 that it wasn’t as rich samsung, also added a new eye.
Comfort feature to the s21 series that will automatically adjust blue light output. Based on what you’re doing, i only noticed it working at night when the screen became a little yellow, as if i had turned on a low intensity filter. But otherwise this feature stayed out of the way. I played two dots for hours on the s21 and my eyes never felt fatigued, although they don’t when i play on other phones either. A quick last note on the screen. Samsung uses a new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner in the display here, that’s 1.7 times larger than the s20s. Now this is qualcomm’s 3d sonic sensor, gen 2 that’s supposed to be able to recognize two fingers at once, but samsung doesn’t appear to have implemented that feature. For now. It does seem slightly easier to unlock the s21 than older models simply because there’s a bigger target, unlike the s21 ultra, which has a quad camera setup on the back featuring a 108 megapixel main sensor and a pair of telephoto lenses, the s21 only has three a 12 megapixel primary camera, a 12 megapixel ultra wide sensor and a 64 megapixel telephoto. That telephoto only supports hybrid optical three times zoom too, compared to the ultras three times and ten times optical zooms. That difference in hardware means that the s21 only offers up to 30 times space zoom as samsung likes to call it instead of the hundred times on the ultra that’s. Fine by me.
Never in my life have i ever felt the need to zoom in on a subject up to a hundred times, and i doubt most of you have either the superior lenses on the ultra also offer slightly better quality when you’re between three times and ten times zoom. On the s21 pictures beyond ten times, zoom were muddy, but i did find the feature occasionally useful. I was able to find out what brand of toilets were being installed in the building going up a few streets away. I still wouldn’t post most of those pictures to instagram, but you could see this being useful in very specific scenarios. One improvement samsung did make here is offer a zoom lock feature that helps minimize shake when you’re at 20 times zoom and beyond, when you’re. At that level, a box appears on the viewfinder’s top left and tapping. It sets the boundaries of your scene. As my hands shook, the scene remained stable and i needed to move the phone fairly deliberately to shift away from the locked frame space. Zoom aside, i enjoyed the versatility of the s21’s triple camera setup. Getting a shot of the cityscape from my window and switching sensors to get wider and closer views was fun. With the new director’s view, mode too, you can get a live preview of what each camera sees and choose. Your favorite director’s view also works for video capture and i filmed both a beautiful sunset and my reaction to it from the selfie camera simultaneously.
As i was recording, i could switch between views by tapping the corresponding thumbnail on the right. This is probably more useful for tick tock and instagram users, though it isn’t, supported on those apps natively you’d have to shoot a video with samsung’s camera app separately and then upload your clip. Some other updates that samsung highlighted are improved single, take and night modes and, for the most part they feel incremental there’s, also new bokeh and lighting options in the portrait mode, which samsung says, uses ai and 3d depth analysis for more accurate outlines and effects. Honestly, i found most of those tweaks negligible. The software still can’t apply a natural blur around the wisps of hair on my head, but lowering the intensity helped minimize the difference. Aside from all the new features, the s21’s cameras are mostly decent pictures and selfies were clear and colorful, and sometimes i couldn’t tell them. Apart from photos, i shot with the pixel 5. google’s flagship still takes much sharper and clearer photos, especially when you’re scrutinizing the details, but samsung’s cameras will be good enough for most users. One surprising thing that sets samsung’s flagships apart from the competition is the software. I generally prefer google’s pixel ui and with one ui 3 samsung made some tweaks to mimic that experience. For one thing, the page on the left of the home screen is now google’s discover feed, which is much cleaner than samsung’s bixby infested daily. The gallery app and its built in editor are also more useful than stock androids, thanks to nifty video, editing and screenshot tools on the s21.
If you enable labs, when you’re editing a picture, you can use a new object eraser to get rid of unsightly things in the background. As someone who lives with unavoidable clutter, i love the promise of this feature. You tap things you want to remove, and the system will highlight it in purple when you’re done picking what you want to clear hit, erase and they’ll be replaced by auto generated background. The effectiveness here largely depends on your scene. If the background is quite clean. With few patterns – and your object has an obvious outline – this tool works very well, but for things like a cardboard box sitting in my doorway, the s21’s eraser was fine. It removed the box sure, but the background had visible streaks left behind. This is understandable, though the same feature in adobe photoshop still leaves similar marks. Another bonus is the samsung free app, which was previously called samsung daily. It lets you watch tv channels, read certain publications and play some games for free. I didn’t think this would be that compelling until i found myself binge watching kitchen nightmares one night, while i was browsing reddit there are dozens of channels available, including paramount movie. Channel amc presents mtv pluto ion plus and tv land sitcoms. You can watch these on your phone full screen or picture in picture, and for now i don’t see a way to cast them to my google tv, it’s, a small and possibly underrated feature but it’s nice to see, especially at a time when every company is trying To sell you a streaming service as i’m in the us, my s21 came with a snapdragon 888 with 8 gigs of ram and 128 gigs of storage elsewhere, you might get a version with the exynos 2100 and users around the world have complained about older exynos models.
Poor performance and battery life, those of us in the us have nothing to worry about. This is qualcomm’s top of the line cpu and it delivers predictably blazing performance. I recorded the screen, while playing with various portrait blur and lighting modes and jumped in and out of a tv show, with no lag in general, the phone stuck around for a day and a half, and sometimes even two days before needing a charge on our video Rundown test, with adaptive refresh rates on the s21 managed 15 hours and 17 minutes with the same 4, 000 milliamp hour cell as its predecessor that’s better than the s20, which clocked just over 12 hours, as well as the oneplus 8t and the pixel 5. Despite both of those packing larger batteries, of course, battery life will suffer if you’re, using things like 5g and high refresh rates more. So i expect to get closer to about a day of use. Whenever i travel again, the s21 is also one of the first devices to offer the new wi fi 6e standard, that taps new spectrum for higher speeds and capacity. Since i don’t have a compatible router, though i wasn’t able to test this. Unsurprisingly, the s21 is a good phone, it has a powerful processor, a lovely screen, capable cameras and a long lasting battery. It even has some useful software and a gorgeous new design and eye catching colors at eight hundred dollars. The s21 is more reasonably priced than the stable means too.
If you prefer a pure google experience and want to save a hundred dollars.