The Galaxy S21 is an excellent smartphone, even though it is the most basic model in this year’s top-of-the-line Samsung family. And regardless of what else I say in this review, if you have enough money to do what you want without thinking too much and are really into this phone, you will probably be satisfied with your purchase.
Now that I spent two weeks testing the new Galaxy S21 without spending anything, I might as well come here and say a lot of great things I thought about it, some that are not so good, like the lack of a charger, or even talking that I wouldn’t buy just because it was too expensive. Only this time, studying about the device to do this review, I ended up feeling kind of a sucker, and I’ll explain the reason to you.
The design of the Galaxy S family has changed a lot this year, at least in the rear. In the ad, I didn’t really like this style with the camera module merging to the sides in a way that makes it look like the phone was going to be thicker, but they decided to cut the rest off. Now that I caught him personally, I still don’t like it, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.
It sways a little on the table, but that goes for almost any cell phone nowadays. Among the color options, violet with bronze sides and cameras is the option I liked least. My favorites were dark gray and white with silver, but even the pink one I thought was better than the violet. Anyway, this is totally personal taste, and in the time that I tried it I found several people who thought it was beautiful.
Still at the rear, the biggest difference from the S21 for the Plus and Ultra brothers is that it is the only one with plastic in place of the glass at the back. But different from what happened in the Note20, which has a somewhat questionable plastic in my opinion, this one Samsung sent well and you wouldn’t even notice the difference by placing the two side by side.
Even holding your cell phone, you only realize that it’s plastic if you pay attention. Another good thing about this is that it makes the device even lighter than it already would be because it is the smallest in the family. Even with the screen straight in the front, with this size, shape and lightness, it has a very good and very comfortable grip, even using it with one hand. Oh, and he continues to be IP68 certified against water and dust.
On the screen, here we have a 6.2 “Dynamic AMOLED panel with a refresh rate that varies from 48-120 Hz according to what you are doing to save energy. The S21 Ultra can do it at 10-120 Hz , but at no time during my use did I notice these variations. Whenever I was browsing or playing a compatible game, the screen was in full swing to make the moments fluid and smooth.
Another difference is the resolution, which in Ultra would be Quad HD but here is Full HD, which does not mean that this one is bad. Even those who come from one of the S20 to the S21 will probably not notice the difference, since in the predecessors of the S21 you could only enjoy the 120 Hz if you limited the resolution to Full HD, in practice it will be the same.
And it’s not like this resolution is bad here, since with its sizes and Plus, it still guarantees a pixel density good enough to produce very well-defined images. In other words, the difference here is more an advantage for the ultra than a disadvantage for the other two. Other than that, the colors are still excellent and the brightness is also great.
The S21 has been running the OneUI 3.1 factory, which is the modified version of Samsung’s Android 11. In comparison to the Ultra, the only difference here is that the smaller models do not have support for the S Pen sold separately. Besides, everything is here, including the responsive interface, developed to work very well with one hand and all the traditional Korean resources that we are tired of talking about.
It has wireless Dex mode, Windows integration, dual apps and everything in between. Samsung Pay is still present, but here it is worth noting that all devices in the S21 family have lost the ability to work with machines that only have the function of the magnetic stripe. Now, payments via NFC only. It is a problem for some people, but it shouldn’t affect most.
The cameras are very strong points here in the S21. It comes with a 12MP main sensor with f / 1.8 and optical stabilization, also 12MP ultrawide with 2.2 aperture and 120º angle, as well as a 64MP telephoto with 3x hybrid and 30x digital zoom.
During the day, the photos are simply excellent on all cameras, with great colors, detail and dynamic range, which is basically the balance between light and shadows. And his cameras don’t have any focus problems that I noticed. The portrait mode is also great and the single take mode is still there to take several different shots at once.
Anyone who wants to use the maximum resolution of the 64 MP sensor can also do this in the button that shows the proportion of the photos, and then you get a lot of detail for when you want to cut the images in exchange for a slightly worse HDR, but in general let in normal mode it already yields great photos.
At night, all cameras in automatic mode already do a good job, especially the main one, but ultrawide loses detail and telephoto gains a little noise. You can activate the night mode to try to deal with it better, but I recommend only doing this if you have a tripod or a steady support, because at least with me the photos in the night mode often ended up blurry because of shaking.
In the videos, he continues to be able to make recordings in 8K at 24fps, but as almost no one has a TV or 8K monitor I still don’t see much of the point. It also records with good quality and stabilizes in 4K at 60 fps, both at the rear and at the front, and whoever wants more stabilization at the rear has the Superstable mode, but there is still limited to Full HD at 60 fps.
The novelty this time is the Director’s View mode, which allows you to shoot with the front camera and alternate with the rear in Picture in Picture mode or with the screen half and half. This function is cool for those who usually produce content, especially touring somewhere, but I think it would be even better if instead of using the cameras to make a video, only he could record with all of them at the same time in separate files.
In the front, we have a 10 MP and f / 2.2 sensor. During the day and in favor of light, the result of the selfies is good, but not enough to impress. Beautification mode is on by default, but it’s easy to disable if you want.
Against strong backlights, the result is still usable, but the quality doesn’t look very nice. In the dark, the detail drops and the noise increases, but using the screen as a flash you can still make good pictures. And the front portrait mode is also very cool and has several options of effects.
Now let’s talk about the hardware. There in the United States, the S21 comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 and has some memory options, but here in Brazil it arrives with the new Exynos 2100 chip accompanied by 8GB of RAM and 128 of storage.
Only older brothers have options with more space. In addition, none of the models in the S21 family comes with space for a microSD card, so if 128GB is too little for you, this little one will not do. And it also comes with a 5G compatible modem, so the infrastructure of these new networks will only be missing in your region.
I don’t have access to the version with the Snapdragon chip, so I can’t speak for it, but in my experience with this one, the Exynos chip offers more than enough firepower to run everything very easily 99% of the time. In common use it is fast, fluid and without gagging.
But during the most extreme situations, which was when I was playing for the longest time the heaviest game I have here with all the settings at maximum, then I realized that the phone heats up enough for this to make the performance drop, dropping the frame rate per second at times with more action on the screen. It didn’t get in the way of the game, but I could tell.
After I realized this I went to research and found some articles and videos that demonstrate that even though the peak performance when it’s not hot and the Exynos’s battery consumption is very close to the Snapdragon, and most of the time you doesn’t even notice the difference, the Samsung chip has more difficulty keeping temperatures lower, and then in extreme extreme use it ends up heating up more and the performance drops much more than the Qualcomm processor.
Anyway, as I said, in practice it doesn’t affect you most of the time, even when you’re playing, and if I wasn’t testing the device myself, I probably wouldn’t leave the game settings at maximum because the little bit of beauty it’s not worth the extra battery consumption, but for those who care, the warning is given.
Speaking of batteries, here my experience was better than I expected on a small cell phone, with reserves of 4,000 mAh. This is not to say that it lasts for a long time, but it was enough to arrive at the end of the day with approximately 5% battery even in intensive use, with more than 7 hours of screen on including an average of 3 hours of online games and prolonged use of GPS. That is, it can take the whole day even if you use it a lot, but it does not give the slack that larger cell phones can give today.
And then there is the issue of the charger, which does not come in the box. It only comes with a USB-C cable at both ends and you have to turn around to recharge if you don’t have a USB-C charger out there. Unless you buy your S21 in the pre-sale period, then Samsung has made an agreement with Procon so that you can go to the Samsung For You website, order a free charger and receive it at home in up to 30 calendar days. This may still be valid after the pre-sale, but it may not be, so don’t count on it. Only here in Brazil is Samsung doing this, so at least we have this advantage for now.
Before going to the finals, it is worth talking about the fingerprint reader, which remains ultrasonic under the glass and works very well. They say it is bigger and better than the last generation, but as I have not had any problems with that one, I didn’t feel the impact of it so much.
About the sound, the speakers are stereo, one practically invisible to the front at the top of the screen, and the other to the bottom. The maximum volume of the sound is strong, has great quality and does not distort the audio too much. The only small caveat is that the bass speaker, which is the easiest to muffle with your hand, is much stronger than the other, so as much as you can still hear things in this case, this can be difficult in noisier environments. It also has no headphone jack or USB-C headphone in the box.
IT IS WORTH IT?
“Ah, Leo, so is it because of these little problems added up that you said you ended up feeling like a sucker?” No, or at least not exactly. Let’s go: except the issue of the charger and phone, which is not only valid for this model here, but for all S21 and which for now is not so serious here in Brazil because of Procon’s business, and the drop in performance of Exynos, which affects markets outside the United States, but you only feel it from time to time, all the other small cuts and designs made by Samsung specifically on this smaller model were planned.
Samsung did it on purpose, because that way it managed to launch the S21 back in the United States costing $ 200 less than the S20 cost at launch. That is, exchanging the rear for a great quality plastic, removing the magnetic stripe function that few people still used and reducing the resolution to something that does not make much difference for those who already preferred the screen at 120 Hz, among other even smaller things , they managed to significantly reduce its price and made it a much more attractive device for those who want power in the new generation while spending as little as possible. In other words, over there they did right in this one everything that had gone wrong in Note20.
Then, as the same concepts are in the Brazilian version of the device, it would be logical to think that the result would be the same here, right? Yeah, it’s just not what happened. The Galaxy S21 was launched for US $ 1,000 in the United States and arrived in Brazil with a suggested price of R $ 5,500. The S21 went for US $ 800 there and arrived here with a suggested price of R $ 6 thousand.
Even though the dollar went from R $ 4.72 to R $ 5.38 between these launches, it doesn’t make any sense for a $ 200 cut to translate into a R $ 500 increase. I’m not an economist, but by my accounts, if we consider the difference in the dollar value between the two seasons, it was for the price to have dropped by an average of R $ 400. It was when I realized this that I stopped and thought “wow, I’m feeling like a real sucker” .
So I guess I wouldn’t even need to say that I don’t think the S21 is paying off, right? At least not until the price drops a lot.