Samsung Galaxy S21/S21+ Review: Design refresh with incremental upgrades

Samsung Galaxy S21/S21+ Review: Design refresh with incremental upgrades

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Image Credit: Vaibhav Pradip

Part of the more budget friendly section of the Galaxy S21 series, the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ are starkly different from the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Dating back to last year, there was not much to complain about with the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+. Naturally, the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ are mere design refreshes with incremental upgrades.

Body and Build

Like their elder sibling, the S21 Ultra, the staple ‘Contour Cut Camera Design’ is here too, although both the devices have distinct builds. The Galaxy S21 sports a plastic back, weighing a lighter 169 g and coming in at 7.9 mm thin. On the contrary, the Galaxy S21+ has a noticeably more premium feel in the hand given its Gorilla Glass Victus protected glass back, although it is slightly heavier at 200 g and comes in at 7.8 mm thin. Despite build quality differences, both smartphones are equipped with a front Corning Gorilla Glass Victus layer and full IP68 water and dust certification. Just like the Galaxy S21 Ultra though, both the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ lose support for microSD expansion.
S21+ Display

Image Credit: Vaibhav Pradip


As for the display, both smartphones come equipped with a 2,400 x 1,080 FHD+ resolution O-dot Infinity panel of varying sizes, equipped with an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. On the 6.2-inch Galaxy S21, the pixel density is adequate however on the 6.7-inch Galaxy S21+, you find some reminiscence of fuzziness especially in text. This comes as a surprising move from Samsung, considering the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+ from last year had WQHD+ resolution panels. One reason for the switch though could have been the growing number of users who operated their displays at 120Hz and FHD+ resolution, only sparingly using the full WQHD+ resolution.

However, with these being flagship smartphones, we would have liked to see not only the variable 48-120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2x panel which is what the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ come with but also the ability to run this at full WQHD+, just like on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Being Samsung panels, features such as contrast ratio, the peak 1,300 nit brightness and stereo speakers make the multimedia experience on both devices pleasing. And despite not having a curved display, the screen-to-body ratio of 87.2 and 88.3 per-cent on the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ makes for an immersive multimedia experience.

Power and OS

Differences aside, the core usage experience on both the smartphones remains identical. Equipped with the Exynos 2100 5 nm processor and Mali-G78 MP14 GPU, you get a snappy and responsive phone. Here, you find 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage, the latter being an upgrade that heavy storage users may need to opt for given the lack of microSD card expansion. A good portion of this user experience is also governed by how well Samsung’s One UI 3.1 is optimized, on top of Android 11.

In this case, using the Galaxy S21 or Galaxy S21+ will not make you miss any of the Galaxy S21 Ultra features. The lack of S-Pen support is minor, especially on the smaller screen Galaxy S21 however all your core features including Samsung DeX, multi-window support and reliable multitasking are present. Likewise, the smartphones can also be used for heavy gaming. But they display a similar heating up pattern to the Galaxy S21 Ultra when multitasking for longer durations. We believe this might be an inherent property of Samsung’s new processor and should be addressed as the phone adapts to your long-term habits via as well as future software updates.

S21 Camera

Image Credit: Supplied


The uniformity in both smartphones continues when it comes to optics. Here, you find a triple-camera setup comprised of a 12MP f/2.2 wide, 64MP f/3.4 telephoto with 3x hybrid zoom and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens. This setup’s hardware features are near identical to the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy 20+ series from last year.

However, it is software that Samsung has worked on the most. You benefit from a new Single Take mode, improved night-time processing and a feature called Director’s View, allowing you to film using all the camera lenses on the phone simultaneously. You also find support for up to 4K 60 fps shooting using all the lenses on the smartphones and a bonus 8K 24 fps option. We are also glad to see an improvement in the smartphones’ 10MP selfie camera, which can now process images using a ‘Natural’ and ‘Bright’ preset based on preference.

For a detailed look at the camera and camera samples of the Samsung S21 and S21+, please click here.

Battery and Charging

Owing to the size differences of the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+, they sport a 4,000mAh and 4,800mAh battery respectively. On a heavy day of usage with 5G enabled, you should see an average on-screen time of 6-7 hours. On more moderate days, this should increase depending on your usage. The better battery life here is thanks to Samsung’s optimization and also due to the smartphone pushing a FHD+ resolution as opposed to a WQHD+ one.

While a charger is not included out of the box given the environmental angle Samsung has taken this year, you will be able to benefit from 25W wired giving you a full charge in just over an hour, 15W wireless and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

S21 Back

Image Credit: Supplied

Final Thoughts

The incremental updates on the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ do not make them assured buys for all users. Although, their lower starting price compared to last year may be a small driving factor. The Galaxy S21 retails for Dh3,199 whereas the Galaxy S21+ retails for Dh3,799. Both are currently on pre-order, where you will also be able to benefit from a free Galaxy Buds Live, SmartTag and 1 Year Samsung Care+.

If you’re looking for a more detailed review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+, please find the longer version here.


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