Samsung Galaxy S21: first impressions and expectations
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The “cheapest” of the three is the Galaxy S21 — not an Ultra, not a Plus. The phone seems to be a successor of last year’s Galaxy S20 FE moreso than the Galaxy S20. Why? Well, for one, it has a completely flat screen. No edgy curves here. And secondly, it’s back is made of plastic, instead of glass.
Does the S21 have the chops to justify that $800 price-tag? You know… with a straight face? Well, if you are one of the people that doesn’t really care about that plastic touch on the back, you will find yourself using a top-tier, superfast Samsung flagship with a camera that we expect to be consistently great.
Samsung Galaxy S21 display and design
The Galaxy S21 is unmistakably a Samsung phone — the design has a vibe that somehow brings back Galaxy S7 memories, yet it looks modern and fresh.
The S21’s screen has a 6.2-inch diagonal, same as the Galaxy S20. Disappointingly for pixel-peepers, the Galaxy S21 has a FHD+ resolution, meaning 1080 x 2400. That’s a downgrade from the Galaxy S20’s QHD+ (1440 x 3200).
In all honesty, this brings the pixel density of the Galaxy S21 down to 424 PPI, which means it will still be exceptionally sharp. The S20’s 566 PPI was just overkill for no apparent reason besides bragging rights. Also, the lower resolution will be more forgiving on the battery, which is something that actually matters.
You can still expect a dynamic refresh rate here, meaning the Galaxy S21 can go up to a 120 Hz refresh for super smooth animations. Whenever it’s not displaying motion, the phone will throttle down to 48 Hz to save that precious battery juice.
The screen doesn’t have curves at the edges, which is something we haven’t seen on a Samsung flagship in quite some time. Users have had this love-hate relationship with Samsung’s Edge screens for a while now. Yeah, they look cool, but they basically invite ghost touches every time you try to shift the phone around in your palm. And they are hard to protect by most cases unless they have this really thick lip.
What I’m saying is that many people out there will be happy with the S21 and S21+’s flat screens. But fans of the curved display will have to splurge the dough for an S21 Ultra (or just get one of the S20 models instead).
Despite having a plastic back (yeah, call it “Glasstic” if you wish), the Galaxy S21 still has a metal frame, so… it’ll still have that cool touch around the sides. Personally, I was not a fan of how the plastic on the Note 20 nor the S20 FE felt, and I don’t have high hopes for this phone. But, I know a lot of users out there counter me with “I always use a case anyway”, so that’ll be up to personal preference for sure.
The camera module on the back sure looks cool to me. It has a bit of a “Robocop reboot” flavor to its design, taking what we liked in the camera bump of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and improving upon it to minimize the dust-gathering qualities around its base. I am digging the duo-tone look for sure.
Samsung Galaxy S21 performance
Hopes for the Galaxy S21 performance are high. It will come in two flavors again — the USA and South Korea will get an S21 powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, the rest of the world will have an S21 with Samsung’s home-made Exynos 2100 chip.
In any cases, these are the first processors built on a 5 nm process that’ll grace a high-profile Android smartphone, and everyone is going to be examining them very closely. Specifically, they will be compared to Apple’s A14 silicon a lot… because Apple was first to introduce a 5 nm chip. So, can it be beat just 3 months after launch?
International users are also crossing their fingers that the Exynos 2100 will finally be on par (or maybe better?) with the Snapdragon 888. In the past few years, any Exynos-equipped Galaxy flagship has always been just slightly worse than its Snapdragon counterpart. Specifically in the battery life department, but it also lagged slightly in performance.
The new chips will also have their 5G modems integrated, which — in theory — means that 5G should take less of a toll on battery life. Thus far, the iPhone 12 included, 5G has been a real battery hog.
So yes, the S21 has geeks perking up their ears and waiting impatiently on those first reviews and real-life benchmarks. Needless to say, we can’t wait to put it through the paces as well.
Samsung Galaxy S21 camera
Not much has changed here from the Galaxy S20. The Galaxy S21 still has a 12 MP main camera, a 12 MP ultra-wide camera, and a 64 MP zoom camera. The signature features like Single Take, Portrait Mode (previously known as Live Focus), 8K video, and 30x Space Zoom make a return, seemingly unchanged.
It’s worth mentioning that, while Samsung calls the 64 MP camera a “telephoto”, it really uses a digital crop to achieve that telephoto effect. In the past, this hasn’t lead to any form of noticeable quality drop, so we don’t really mind it, but it’s good to point it out nonetheless.
With the Galaxy S21, Samsung is lauding an improved night-time performance. The S20 was already pretty good at taking photos and videos in the dark, so we are curious to see how much better the S21 is in that aspect.
Samsung Galaxy S21 battery life
So, the Galaxy S21 has the same battery capacity as the Galaxy S20. But, I have high hopes that it’ll give us slightly more use time with the same juice box. Why?
Well, as previously mentioned, the S21’s screen has a lower-res screen. Less glowing pixels means less battery drain, right? Secondly, the 5 nm processors should be more energy-efficient than last year’s 7 nm silicon. Sooo… maybe? Probably? We’ll see.
In any case, the Galaxy S20 was fully capable of delivering a full-day battery life for the regular and somewhat addicted users out there. And the Galaxy S21 shouldn’t really disappoint in that aspect. Not at all.