Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Long-term Impressions

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Long-term Impressions


For the last 4 or 5 months, we here at PhoneArena, have been playing around with the Samsung Galaxy S21+, and honestly, we think that this is one solid device. We really don’t know how else to describe it.

Design


The design is nice, we have the phantom violet model here with us, and it looks and feels different than anything else we’ve used, and in a good way. The frame itself feels nice and cold in the hand and it’s rather comfy. At no point did we feel that we would drop the device but we did find the frosted glass back on the slippery side. At least it’s not a grease magnet like the S20 series.


One thing we’d like to throw here though, We’ve used many devices from Samsung. And one thing we didn’t like about the S21+, was the missing micro SD card slot. We did eventually get used to not having it though. We used to consider transferring photos to our computer via a card reader to be faster, but USB connection speeds have caught up, so not a terrible thing to see go away.

On the topic of things going away, we’re not sure why our charger had to be taken away but we guess this will be the new norm for high-end flagships.


Display


Display-wise, our eyes are happy. This display is freakishly bright outdoors and it can also be quite dim while you use your phone in bed. Also, if you remember, this year’s S21 series dropped its resolution down to 1080p which we think was a limiting decision, we would have preferred to have at least the option to choose a higher resolution.

Anyway, we haven’t really felt bothered by this panel. The new “Adaptive” option for the high refresh rate is perfect. The phone is able to switch between a high and low refresh rate on the fly. It’s not something you’ll notice and it’ll save you some battery.


Features


We’re also digging the new fingerprint scanner. It used to be slower before and we’ve also noticed that it’s sitting a bit higher, towards the center of the display, but we got used to that. It scans with good precision and accuracy even though it’s under the display.

Now might also be a good time to add that the haptic feedback is a bit weak on this device. It didn’t really bother us, but you also might miss a call or two while you keep the phone in your pocket.

Camera


Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate how nowadays, almost all flagship phones are water-resistant? We had a blast taking some shots on a boat in the lake. It started raining a bit which made for some perfect slow-motion videos.


Of course, we wouldn’t really drop it since it’s not waterproof nor does it float. On the topic of these slow-motion videos though, we just love how the S21+ includes a pro video mode. Both the left and right microphones of this device are also super decent. Like, you can vlog on this phone if you wanted to. The S21+ camera app opens quickly, takes quick shots too. The ultrawide is not something special like you can’t really focus with it, but it does record up to 4K at 60fps which is very nice. You can also depend on it during the day with ease. It makes for some cool shots and it won’t wow you but it won’t disappoint you too.

It can’t really focus on a specific subject like on the Ultra, but it’s really consistent. And the zoom, well, we’ll be honest here.

It’s a hybrid, meaning that it uses a high megapixel sensor to crop in and that’s how it zooms, but we’ve noticed that this doesn’t give as good of a result as using a dedicated telephoto lens like on the S20 FE for example.

And regarding the selfie camera. As we mentioned, you can vlog on this phone if you wanted to. For the most part, we noticed very adequate stabilization. Usually, we’d recommend starting out with a gimbal, but you can manage with just a hand and maybe a selfie stick.


Performance and Battery


With that out of the way, we want to also take a moment to mention something about the battery and performance. Or at least we want to confirm that the S21+ is an amazing performer.

We were never really in the need of battery juice while out and about. Maybe there was this one time but for the most part, we’re pretty happy with how it holds up. This does kind of remind us of the old S6 and how it lasted us barely half a day. Ah, good times. But seriously, the S21+ can probably last you 2 full days if you’re busy at work.

Also, the battery is barely losing juice while on standby. Of course, we’d still recommend you charge it at least a bit in the evening unless you want to be going strong a second day and end up having to charge it midday like we usually do. And in case you’re wondering what we did on the S21+, we mainly used the camera from time to time, browsed Reddit, and watched some YouTube.

Also, we know Samsung did bad with their previous Exynos 990 chipset, but our model here uses the new Exynos 2100 and it’s doing mighty fine. We’ve had some fun playing games. We tried out some Genshin Impact and we were getting decent 60fps. Even pushing the maximum graphics was fine but we were feeling the phone heating up and some frames dropped from time to time. Then again, this game is also a bit heavy for other phones too. In any case, the S21+ had no issue whatsoever with keeping things smooth everywhere else. Stutters are nonexistent or even if you notice them, you’d be more surprised than annoyed.


Also while playing a game or two and while watching YouTube, we’ve had a decent amount of time to listen to this phone’s speakers. And here’s the thing. They’re far from the best we’ve heard. Like on the ROG 5, but they’re miles better than the worst and even better than the speakers of some laptops. The highs aren’t distorted or anything. But they’re missing a bit of bass compared to the best on the market, maybe even a bit of richness although they are quite loud.


Software


By the way, we assume you recall Samsung DeX? 

Using your phone as a substitute for your computer is pretty neat and we’re sure that with the right setup, you can manage spreadsheets and some basic documents, maybe even watch some YouTube on a bigger screen, but we also find DeX a bit lacking for other things we’d like to do on it. Some colleagues here at PhoneArena sometimes write code in C++ and would love to have a neat setup for that on DeX but they can’t because there is no longer support for Linux on DeX. Also, we’d have to constantly keep the S21+ hooked up to a charger unless we plan to not use a phone for the rest of the day. And we just don’t think that’s the best thing for the battery anyways.

One other thing, iPhones usually receive around 5 years of support and this is something we like about Apple so much, which is why we’re happy to see Samsung promising 3 generations of software updates on their devices. 

Our updates have been consistent so far and we hope this trend continues until the end.

But of course, we’re not sure the S21+ is for everyone. As cool as we have found it to be, we’ve also tried out some really good alternatives, albeit with some cons to their pros.

For instance, you can have the regular S21 if you want for around $200 less and the only major con or pro, depending on how you’re looking at it, is its size. It’s around 6.2 inches versus the 6.7 of the S21+. Or if you’re feeling like spending more, there is always the Ultra, which wipes the floor with the S21+ in terms of camera performance at least, but it also doesn’t offer that much more for the price bump of $200. But even then, there are also other Smartphone manufacturers. You can get a Sony Xperia 5II if you want something similarly priced. Of course, it’s smaller but you also get a Micro SD card slot and a headphone jack, which is a rarity amongst flagship-grade phones.

So all in all, options exist, but we’ve found that the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is positively not lacking in any major way. It’s a solid design with solid performance for those who want a hassle-free experience.

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