I’m not going to lie, I hated the Galaxy S21 when I first heard about it. It had left out a lot of features from its predecessor and didn’t get any price cuts wherever I live. But then I got my hands on one and my mind changed completely. Let’s talk about my long history of using the regular Galaxy S21.
Design and build quality
We’ll get to plastic in a moment, but before that I just want to take a moment to appreciate this beautiful new design on the Galaxy S21. I love how they integrated the camera module into the frame of the phone. It looks unique and very sophisticated, especially in this Phantom White color. With its compact size and low weight, the Galaxy S21 is my new favorite device for one-handed operation. The flat screen and the matte surface of the plastic back also contribute to the fact that this phone lies comfortably in the hand.
Now let’s talk about the one controversial feature of the build. The plastic back. To all of the people who say plastic feels no different to glass, with all due respect, you are wrong. I used that Galaxy S21 Ultra and there is a distinct difference between how this phone feels and how this phone feels. But here’s the thing. I love the plastic back. It’s not slippery, it doesn’t shine, and it doesn’t crack if I accidentally drop it. It’s actually really high quality plastic and feels more sophisticated than the material on top of it Galaxy S20 FE . Sure, it doesn’t feel as high quality as glass, but hey, at least I don’t have to worry about having a case on the phone.
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Fun fact: when you turn on the flashlight and put your finger on it, the light shines through the plastic to create this really cool looking effect. See it in action here .
Flip it over and we have the flat 120Hz FullHD Plus display. It’s excellent. Unsurprisingly, the core quality of the display is top notch. It’s a Samsung panel, after all, and they have been known to dominate this area for quite some time. What was unexpected for me was how much I enjoyed using the flat display. I don’t have to grip a phone in any particular way to avoid accidental touches, and I don’t have to adjust the tilt while watching videos to minimize glare. I know this sounds like they aren’t big deals, but those tiny, tiny things really help shape the user experience.
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Software experience: OneUI 3.0
Now let’s talk about the software experience. On the Galaxy S21, Samsung’s Android Skin OneUI runs on Android 11. OneUI is great. It literally gives you everything. First of all, it’s extremely smooth and fluid. There were no delays, frame drops, or stuttering when browsing the general user interface. Every animation is very relaxed and graceful, which I really appreciate. Another big plus for me is the software update situation. Samsung is promising 3 major software updates for its flagship smartphones, which is great when compared to competing Android vendors. You also get a ton of features and lots of customization options.
However, such a feature overload can be overwhelming for most users. There is also a Samsung Alternate for every Google service in the phone that could be useful or bloatware depending on whether you are using those Samsung services. My main problem with OneUI is that they have started posting ads in the general UI and system apps. While this is bad on any phone, it hurts especially to see it on such an expensive flagship that is said to offer a premium user experience.
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Now let’s go through the performance. Samsung’s Exynos 2100 is said to be a huge step up from the previous Exynos 990. As someone who uses the Galaxy S20 Over the past year, that big step can only be felt as you push the phone to its limits. In the general usage scenarios with your light social media apps or message apps or texts, the Exynos S21 works perfectly, so well that you will hardly find any problems. Switch to gaming and things are a little overwhelming.
While the Exynos 2100 is a significant step up from the Exynos 990, it’s still not buttery smooth. The games are all still very playable with medium to high graphics settings, but the overall experience is not up to the flagship level. First off, most of the games I’ve tested didn’t support the highest graphics setting possible, which you wouldn’t expect on the latest flagship phone. Second, I compared the performance of this phone to that OnePlus 8 Pro and with support for higher graphics settings, it did better, even though the CPU was a generation older.
You see, the thing is, the Exynos 2100 is a brand new CPU, so it will take developers some time to tweak their games accordingly. Since Exynos is not as widespread as Snapdragon, this game optimization is often delayed or just never happens.
In short, the Galaxy S21 is an extremely capable phone when you are not playing on your phone. Even if you play intensive games occasionally, the Galaxy S21 is definitely enough. But if you’re really serious about smartphone gaming, get one iPhone or a Snapdragon phone instead.
How To Fix Galaxy S21 Series Overheating Issues
Now that we’re done with that, let’s talk about the cameras. Apart from the new design of the camera module, the Galaxy S21 has roughly the same camera hardware on paper as the Galaxy S20 from last year. It has a 12 MP f1.8 main camera, another 12 MP f2.2 ultrawide and a 64 MP f2 telephoto camera. Let’s find out how the S21 fares in real life with the same hardware and a brand new processing chip.
- The 12 MP main camera shoots sharp images both indoors and outdoors. The images have vivid colors and a high dynamic range. By default, the shadows are exposed so that the images with vivid colors become lighter.
- Although the ultrawide camera has a fixed focus, the S21 doesn’t compromise on image quality. It takes well-exposed still images with decent distortion and noise levels.
- The 1.1x 64 MP optical telephoto lens uses hybrid zoom to create 3x zoomed still images. Image stabilization is surprisingly good, resulting in sharper images with respectable details.
- The separation of subjects when taking portraits has improved slightly compared to last year’s Galaxy S20. The skin tones and the dynamic range are also very good.
- We see very similar performance with selfies with accurate skin tones, less smoothing, and sharper images.
- Low light performance has also improved since the last generation. The Galaxy S21 shoots sharper images that are bright and low in noise.
- In terms of resolutions and frame rates, the S21 can record videos in [email protected] from the rear view cameras and in 4K up to 60fps from both the front and rear view cameras.
- The video quality is excellent in terms of colors and dynamic range. In addition, flagship-level image stabilization across all 3 lenses adds the icing on the cake.
In conclusion, the Galaxy S21 is the right choice for all types of users. The camera’s simple user interface and image processing provide great image quality for serious photography or casual use like posting on social media. Thanks to the powerful hardware and features like 8K recording, HDR 10+ and RAW recording support, the camera of the Galaxy S21 can easily meet the demands of professional users. Honestly, I think the Galaxy S21’s camera will make all types of users happy.
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When it comes to battery life, things actually went better than I expected. Exynos CPUs traditionally have poor energy efficiency, which means poor battery life. This is not the case with the Galaxy S21. Although it’s not an endurance king, it easily lasted for a day for me, which equates to about 5 hours of Screen On Time. You can even extend it to a day and a half or two by using some energy saving methods. This is a massive improvement over last year’s Galaxy S20, and I’m all for it.
The Galaxy S21 also supports Fast Charging, Fast Wireless Charging and Reverse Wireless Charging. However, the scope of delivery does not include a power supply unit, just a Type-C to Type-C charging cable.
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Highlights: call quality, fingerprint sensor
A couple of random highlights before we finish. The in-display fingerprint sensor is my favorite – it’s fast, reliable, and you don’t have to wake up the screen to use it. The phone call experience is simply unrivaled. It catches Signal one and holds up better than any other phone I’ve used. Even the listener quality is crystal clear. This phone is a pleasure to use when you receive a lot of calls.
Now to the conclusion. The Galaxy S21 is simply the best full size Android phone that you can buy today. It has the best display, great camera system, great performance, and good battery life. Sure, the price is a little high at the moment, but it’s Samsung so expect lots of deals and discounts in a few months.
The thing is, Samsung’s S series sets the benchmark for smartphones every year. I think this is the Galaxy S21. A benchmark that is not only excellent on its own, but also really hard to beat for the competition.
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