Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: It's BETTER than you think

So, the point is this: the vast majority of smartphones where you can find the best of the technology of the moment, they cost more than 1000 euros. There is nothing to be done, it is an essential law that has dominated the market for years. For all other models, one way or another, there are compromises. We have seen it with it Xiaomi Mi 11, we have seen it with all the "non Pro" or "non Ultra" models of 2020, and we find it again this time with the Samsung Galaxy S21.

And the question is simple: with these particular devices, which are not the top of the range for the company, but which in fact are part of the top of the range series, in my opinion what makes the difference is precisely the skill of the company. same in choose compromises, in betting on some characteristics, giving up others.

And no, don't believe anyone who tells you that the Samsung Galaxy S21 it is a real top of the range without compromise, because there are compromises and how, and this is what makes it even more special. Because (almost) everyone is good at designing a smartphone with all the best of technology available, but being able to produce a device extremely balanced like the Samsung Galaxy S21, which by the way costs less than last year's S20, betting on a very fast processor and giving up some “accessory” features, means only one thing: that the company knows where it is going.

In short, compared to the S20 le new to S21 they may not be very noticeable (except aesthetic ones), but in reality they are, they are different and make the smallest of the lineup extremely pleasant to use for everyday use.

Samsung Galaxy S21 review

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Package Contents

Almost as poor as that of the Xiaomi Mi 11 or the iPhone 12, the packaging of the Samsung Galaxy S21 it is small and practically devoid of any kind of accessory. Basically, inside it besides the smartphone there is only a USB-C / USB-C cable and nothing else.

However, it is true that by purchasing the smartphone on Amazon (find the links below), you will be honored with an original Samsung charger which, among other things, as I write this review is also discounted on the company's official website.

Design

Design is the sector that has probably been most revolutionized in Samsung's new smartphones. But it is also the sector in which we find the first compromise decided by the Korean company: the back is not made of glass but in Glasstic, a particular polymer that should give a “glass” sensation, and that lowers production costs, increasing the lightness of the device. And do you know what I tell you? It is OK. The effect that you have when you hold the device is still first in the class, and honestly I still can't understand all this need to use more expensive materials at all costs, if there are solutions like this that they affect the user experience very little.

Also because, compared to the back of the Note 20, That of the Samsung Galaxy S21 has been improved and, thanks to the matte finish and the metal frames, fingerprints are captured significantly less and you continue to have the feeling of using a "premium phone".

However, with a thickness of 7,9 millimeters and a weight of 169 grams, the work done by Samsung with the little S21 is exceptional: it is robust, compact, the colors are very beautiful and the new bump camera is one of my favorites (if not my favorite) around. The choice made by the company is to say the least poco bold but, especially in the Phantom Violet color (which is the one we received on test), it is particularly beautiful to see. If you then consider that it is also less often of what we find in the S20, the final consideration can only be one: Samsung did a great job.

Display

A small downgrade, compared to the S20, there was also in the display. Because if in last year's model the panel was a 1440p, this year Samsung has decided to stop at 1080p in both S21 and S21 +, opting for a totally flat display but, believe me, very nice to see.

The panel is a AMOLED from 6.2 "to 120 Hz and with a pixel-per-inch density of 421 ppi, very different from the LTPO one we find in the S21 Ultra, but just as beautiful to look at. There is no doubt that the Korean company is a reference point as regards the screens and, despite the resolution downgrade and the variable refresh rate over a range (more than sufficient) of 48 120-Hz, I found the display of the Galaxy S21 significantly improved compared to the previous generation: the brightness of 1300 nits it's great and the automatic refresh rate adaptation algorithm never misses a beat. Not to mention the oleophobic treatment of the glass that protects it, which does its job very well.

A new fingerprint sensor was inserted under the screen, which has not only become bigger than 70%, but also significantly faster and more precise: it's practically lightning and never misses a beat. The water and powder certification is there, and it is also very important: the Samsung Galaxy S21 is a standard-compliant smartphone IP68.

Hardware

At the risk of spoiling part of the review, I'll tell you one thing right away: that Samsung with its Exynos has always been not one but three steps behind Qualcomm's Snapdragons is a fact, but when the company has presented its new SoC with the claim "Exynos is back" he was not kidding. The new Exynos 2100 at 5nm it's a really big step forward, and the gap with Qualcomm's Snap 888 is really, really small. Rather, almost non-existent in everyday life.

The reality of the facts is that, in addition to the bare and crude performance, Samsung's processors have always been conditioned by two significant problems: the overheating and Battery drain.

So, let's get straight to the point. With the Exynos 2100 the battery drain problem was largely resolved and, despite a rather small battery, the equally small Samsung house is able to guarantee a more than good autonomy, but we will talk about this later.

As regards the overheating, instead, there is a premise to be made. Generally, for us who test smartphones, the most important moment to analyze the issue of temperatures is at the first start of the device, because it is precisely during the configuration and download of the apps, the smartphone is squeezed for good and for a long time. of time. Well, in this first phase I noticed severe overheating of the upper area of ​​the S21, poco lower than the camera.

And then and there I thought: man, the Exynos 2100 is overheating too. But in reality that was it the only time I encountered this problem. Because in all other operations, even the most complex ones and including gaming, Samsung's new SoC is proved to live up to my expectations and managed to manage temperatures optimally.

It goes without saying that with the Samsung Galaxy S21, despite the 8 GB of RAM (which may seem small to some, but which for me are more than adequate), it is possible to perform practically all possible tasks with a smartphoneand without any problem and even the gaming experience has no flaws, all the games are executable at maximum detail and with an average framerate that exceeds 50 fps.

Coming to the raw numbers, in the test with GeekBench 5 the Exynos 2100 of Samsung Galaxy S21 managed to obtain a Single-Core score of 603 points and a Multi-Core score of 3147 points, with a slightly lower result than that obtained by the Snap 888 that we were able to test in the Mi 11, but very high and able to guarantee performance in line with 2021 standards: just remember that the S20 with Exynos 990 in our tests obtained a score of about 2700 points in Multi-Core.

In the test of AnTuTu the Galaxy S21 surpasses by poco i 608302 points, while in Mark 3D is able to get a score of poco higher than 5420 points, which means that in terms of 3D performance, the Snap 888 and the new Exynos are practically on par.

In short, in terms of performance and numerical tests, I would say that the step forward compared to the Exynos 990 it has been done, and it is also very important, especially if we consider the temperatures and consumptions managed deeply better.

What left me a bit perplexed is the result obtained in the AnTuTu stress test, which highlighted the performance and operating frequencies of the processor rather fluctuating, with a few peaks at 100% and some even below 40%. In any case, however, the temperature has never exceeded 40 ° and let's be clear: these are just numbers, because in real life, performance drops will never, ever occur.

Excellent cellular signal reception and audio quality in the capsule, as well as the quality of the antennas 6 WiFi and the speakers: there are two, stereo, and are able to reproduce a good quality stereo sound, well balanced and with a perfect spatial effect. Too bad for the total absence a microSD slot.

Camera - Samsung Galaxy S21

The camera sector, on the other hand, is the one that has undergone the minor upgrade compared to the previous generation. Basically, the hardware innovations compared to the S20 are zero even if, it must be admitted, last year the generational leap was substantial. The cameras of the Samsung Galaxy S21 they continue to be three, ok the sensors have changed, but they are always composed of a main lens from 12 megapixel f / 1.8 dual pixel, an ultra wide angle lens from 12 megapixel f / 2.2 with a 120 ° FOV, and a telephoto lens 64 megapixel f / 2.0 with a 3x optical zoom and capable of reaching 30X using the Space Zoom feature.

But hey, photos in a smartphone are not just hardware, indeed, they are especially software. Pixel docet. And it is on the software side that theS21 got the most important improvements: those of Samsung have done a great job on optimizing the shots, to the point of making even better those in night mode. But let's go in order.

In Samsung Galaxy S21 we continue to be able to take the usual, excellent, photos we are used to. There continues to be a certain tendency towards saturation which makes the photos perhaps less realistic, but more suitable for sharing on social networks, and also with more in-depth crops. there are steps forward in software processing: the details captured they are remarkable, crisp, and noise management is nearly perfect in any conditions.

Also good photos taken with the ultra-wide angle, always precise and with one rather similar color rendering to what we find with the main camera, good too zoom 3x that when used from 20x onwards (in Space Zoom mode) it is helped a lot by the Zoom Lock function, with which it will be possible to tap on the viewfinder that appears at the top right to fix the object you want to photograph.

To understand how this and many other software innovations introduced with the S21 work, I refer you to my study a few days ago.

Also good photographs in night mode, which with the latest update has improved a lot: the color and detail management is excellent, the noise is there but it is counterbalanced very well by the software and it is possible to shoot with all the lenses using this mode.

As for the videos instead, I am of the idea that today the Samsung Galaxy S21 does not yet express the best of its potential. Ok, it is able to record videos in 8k, or in 4K at 60 fps, but the most resolute mode with which it is possible to use electronic stabilization is the FullHD one at 60 FPS: if you go further, you rely only on the OIS.

Good one front 10 megapixel f / 1.8 with OIS and 80 ° FOV, which continues to be in pure Samsung style and which allows the taking of selfies of excellent quality.

In short, the biggest improvement in the photographic sector of the Galaxy S21 it was possible thanks excellent software optimization: There are many shooting modes, you can for example record with the Director Mode in which all three cameras will be used simultaneously, and the mode Single Shot (which is one of the functions that make me prefer Samsung's smartphones) is even more improved and is now also able to record super slow-motion sonar.

Software

If I had to describe in one word the user experience with the Samsung Galaxy S21, the only one that would come to mind would be "XNUMX/XNUMX cup salted butter". Ok, to be able to understand what I mean try to imagine a piece of butter that is melting in a pan: it moves smoothly, in a linear way, almost as if there was no friction.

Well, either for the 120 Hz refresh rate, or for the optimization of the One UI 3.1, the Samsung Galaxy S21 always goes smooth as oil. And all this is possible not only thanks to Android 11, but also to a different management of processes, RAM memory and the whole system in general.

But despite being arguably the best GUI ever developed by Samsung, the One UI 3.1 it continues to bring with it two of the features I least like about the Korean GUI: the icons are still too big for my taste, and the menus have too many, too many items. Ok, let's be clear, for a power user this can only be a beautiful thing, but for a more "traditional" user, poco accustomed to customizations and different ways, it could complicate life.

Battery

And returning to talking about drums, I immediately get to the point: the 4000 mAh of the Samsung Galaxy S21 guarantees well over 15 hours of autonomy with average use, e poco more than 5 hours of screen on with variable refresh rate. And it's a great result, especially considering the Exynos' performance over the past few years.

What I can't understand is the step backwards in fast charging. Unlike the S20, which was compatible with 45w fast charging, this year Galaxy S21 can be charged at 25w maximum. Okay, according to Samsung, this year's optimization makes charging this power more than enough, but in a market where everyone (except Apple) is aiming for super-powerful charging systems, it seems counterintuitive to me to step back.

Clearly though, Galaxy S21 is compatible with both the 15w wireless charging than with reverse wireless charging which, in turn, supports the Qi standard.

Price and considerations

The price of the Samsung Galaxy S21 is €879 for the 8/128 GB version and €929 for the 8/256 GB one. Currently, however, on Amazon it is already on sale with a very substantial discount (find the link below).

I liked it? Yes. It is aesthetically beautiful, compact, comfortable to use and has a processor that finally lives up to the brand name. Would I recommend it? Yup. but only if you want to replace an outdated device or if you want a small and powerful smartphone at all costs. Because I understand the company's choice to differentiate the three variants by responding to the needs of three different types of users and ok, I like the Glasstic, but that didn't drive me crazy are the perhaps too conservative strategy of the camera sector, and the difference perhaps poco marked with the largest S21 +: Is it worth giving up a bigger battery for a few inches less display?

 

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Last updated the 28 / 09 / 2022 15: 49