The Galaxy S21 5G should be your next upgrade

    The Galaxy S21 strikes an excellent stability of options and value which ought to make it interesting to lots of people.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The largest takeaway you’ll want to know concerning the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, together with the Galaxy S21 Plus 5G and Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, is that Samsung minimize the US value of every by $200 (the financial savings are much less in different international locations). Clearly this wasn’t accomplished out of generosity and Samsung’s made trade-offs to hit that lower cost on the Galaxy S21: The wall charger and headphones do not come within the field, the telephone would not have a microSD card slot for expanded storage and it has 4GB of RAM lower than the S20. Samsung additionally eliminated half of the pixels from the display screen and changed the Gorilla Glass from the again with polycarbonate, which is a pleasant manner of claiming plastic.Even with these sacrifices, the Galaxy S21 and its beginning value of $800 (£769, AU$1,249) is extra interesting than the S20. In reality, every telephone within the S21 lineup has extra to tell apart it from each other than the S20 collection did. Out of the trio, the S21 is the no-brainer “you’re due for an upgrade” telephone that you just’re more likely to get from a service. And lots of people are going to get this telephone.

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    Read extra: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. S21 Plus vs. S21 Ultra: Specs comparability chart

    LikeLower priceDesignAndroid 11/OneUI 3.1High refresh price display screen

    Don’t LikeLess RAMDisplay is barely HDGets heat when utilizing itLacks a microSD slot

    The S21 is a big rethink by Samsung, which can have tried to push the S20 to be too premium. But the corporate discovered an excellent stability when it comes to value, options and design for the S21.The Galaxy S21 will get a placing new lookWithout a doubt the very first thing I discover concerning the S21 is its design. This two-tone strategy offers the telephone an art-deco sensibility. Well, sort of. Samsung made the digicam bump larger and extra industrial-looking. I can virtually envision somebody at Samsung looking for the proper drill press to make the digicam cutouts simply the proper dimension.The bump seemingly melts into the perimeters. The purple and gold S21 I reviewed (the colour’s known as phantom violet) offers off some main Mardi Gras vibes. The S21 additionally is available in different “phantom” colours, together with grey, pink and white. On Samsung’s web site, there are limited-edition phantom colours in gold and pink.

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    Review: The Galaxy S21 5G stunned us with its adjustments


    The plastic again has a matte end and feels nice. I do know folks have robust emotions about plastic on telephones. But this is not the hollow-feeling plastic you discovered on telephones 5 – 6 years in the past. The S21 feels well-made. Around the entrance is Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, which we first noticed on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. As a whole package deal ,the S21 has a placing design.
    Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is smooth with a brand new wraparound steel design
    See all images

    Lower decision display screen with a excessive refresh priceThe hole-punch display screen, which Samsung calls the Infinity-O show, is my present favourite workaround for avoiding a notch or huge bezels. The S21’s flat show with its petite black bezel appears to be like actually up to date.It has Full HD decision, which is a step down from the Quad HD decision on the S20. But in on a regular basis use, that is not as dramatic a change because it sounds. Loads of it comes from the adaptive display screen refresh price that fluctuates between 48 and 120Hz relying on what’s being displayed. So if you happen to’re enjoying a recreation like Alto’s Odyssey, Call of Duty or Forza Street you may see them in all their crisp graphical magnificence. And once you aren’t, the show has a decrease refresh price with a purpose to save on battery life.The S21 brings a brand new characteristic to its cameras known as Director’s View.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Same S20 digicam {hardware}, however with enhancementsThe digicam {hardware} on the S21 is strictly the identical discovered on the S20 and that is not a foul factor. On the again are three cameras: a large, ultrawide and telephoto. I somewhat just like the ultrawide on the S21, it could be my favourite ultrawide digicam on an Android telephone.Photos look nice. Autofocus is quick and may change between foreground and background shortly. In video, autofocus switching is not as quick, however when it grabs focus it appears to carry on to it. I additionally like in video mode having an onscreen button on the prime to toggle between completely different resolutions and frames per second.Take a take a look at a number of images I shot with the Galaxy S21 beneath.This was taken with evening mode on the Galaxy S21.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    The constructing on this picture was about two blocks away. I took the picture at 10x magnification.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    I attempted Single Shot mode on this lovable canine. The telephone chosen this picture and even added a filter to it.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    The ultrawide digicam on the Galaxy S21 collection is my favourite on any Android telephone.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Here’s one other evening mode picture. I’m stunned at how nicely balanced the S21 rendered the scene.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    For selfies you now have an possibility for Bright or Natural. Which is superb. Skin tones in selfie images look good, particularly with the entire “face” results turned off. But I ought to word, there are individuals who wish to have the choice. So, there’s that.This selfie was taken with pores and skin smoothing turned off.
    Patrick Holland/CNET
    Samsung added a enjoyable new video characteristic known as Director’s View. While you file, there are thumbnail previews of dwell feeds coming from all the opposite cameras. There is a side-by-side format for vlogging or a stacked format if you happen to’re taking pictures vertically. This permits you to file your self with the selfie digicam and present what you are seeing or reacting to utilizing any of the rear cameras you select.I assumed Director’s View can be extra like a gimmick, however I can see folks desirous to experiment with it. The solely draw back is that it outputs an HD video. But it is the thumbnail preview that sells me on it. I’d like to see this thumbnail preview interface when I’m recording a 4K video or as a Pro Video mode add-on.In Director’s View, I can set the display screen as much as have my selfie video feed on the left and one of many three rear cameras on the proper. You can change between the rear cameras at any time.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The S21 has the Snapdragon 888 chipPowering the S21 is the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip together with 8GB of RAM. In our benchmark exams, the S21 scored higher than final yr’s S20. In use, it dealt with every part from picture edits to gameplay (at 120Hz) simply high quality. The 888 chip additionally permits for some new options like Director’s View.The solely inform that the S21 was working exhausting was that the again bought heat downloading giant information like video games and movies, or after I performed a recreation for longer than 20 minutes. One time whereas working the benchmark check 3D Mark the telephone heated up. In the battery settings, I had Enhanced Performance turned on, which targets all apps that are not video games. 3D Mark is a benchmark app for gaming. I turned Enhanced Performance off and ran 3D Mark once more and the telephone did not get sizzling. Weird, proper?Check out our benchmark scores beneath.3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

    Longer bars point out higher efficiency

    When it involves battery life, it is a one-day telephone. It’s on par with final yr’s S20, which had the identical sized battery. I nonetheless have a number of extra battery exams to run and can add the outcomes to this assessment quickly.The Galaxy S21 has Android 11 and OneUI 3.1The S21 comes with Android 11 topped with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 interface. I like it. There are extra methods to default to Google providers, akin to utilizing Google Pay as a substitute of Samsung Pay, or including the Google Discover News feed to the house display screen as a substitute of the Samsung model. There are additionally small touches like pop-up home windows for adjusting audio ranges that look clear and trendy. There are additionally new widgets you could add to your lock display screen. I’m an enormous fan of how a lot the software program is weighted towards the underside of the show, which makes one-handed navigation straightforward. The Galaxy S21 helps 5GAnd final, the Galaxy S21 is a 5G telephone. It helps each sub-6 and mmWave variations of 5G, which means within the US you will have your alternative of the three main carriers. 5G should not be the only purpose to get this telephone. But the S21 shall be many individuals’s first 5G telephone and its speeds and connection ought to enhance as carriers hold enhancing their 5G networks.Samsung Galaxy S21 specs vs. Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 FE, OnePlus 8T

    Samsung Galaxy S21

    Samsung Galaxy S20

    Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

    OnePlus 8T

    Display dimension, decision

    6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 2,400×1,080 pixels

    6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 3,200×1,440 pixels

    6.5-inch tremendous AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels

    6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels

    Pixel density





    Dimensions (Inches)

    2.80×5.97×0.31 in

    2.72×5.97×0.311 in

    6.29×2.97×0.33 in

    6.33×2.92×0.33 in

    Dimensions (Millimeters)


    69.1×151.7×7.9 mm

    159.8×75.5×8.4 mm

    160.7×74.1×8.4 mm

    Weight (Ounces, Grams)

    6.03 oz; 171g

    5.75 oz; 163g

    6.7 oz; 190g

    6.63 oz; 188g

    Mobile software program

    Android 11

    Android 10

    Android 10

    Android 11


    64MP (telephoto), 12MP (wide-angle), 12MP (ultrawide)

    12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)

    12-megapixel (normal), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (3x telephoto)

    48-megapixel (normal), 16-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (monochrome)

    Front-facing digicam





    Video seize






    Snapdragon 888

    Snapdragon 865 (5G)

    Snapdragon 865 (5G) Samsung Exynos 990 (4G)

    Snapdragon 865





    128GB, 256GB






    Expandable storage


    Up to 1TB




    4,000 mAh

    4,000 mAh

    4,500 mAh

    4,500 mAh

    Fingerprint sensor





    Headphone jack





    Special options

    IP68 ranking, 5G-enabled, 30x Space Zoom, 10W wi-fi charging

    5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; waterproof (IP68)

    120Hz display screen refresh price, help for 30W quick charging and 15W quick wi-fi charging

    5G enabled; 120Hz refresh price; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)

    Price off-contract at launch (USD)

    $800 (128GB), $850 (256GB)




    Price (GBP)

    £769 (128GB), £819 (256GB)

    £799 (4G), £899 (5G)

    £599 (4G), £699 (5G)


    Price (AUD)

    $1,249 (128GB), $1,349 (256GB)

    AU$1349 (4G), AU$1,499 (5G)

    AU$999 (4G), AU$1,149 (5G)


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