Tech

Sasmung Galaxy S21 in the test: no progress, but that’s why so good

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

It is mainly cheap smartphones with large screens that are still very popular with users. With the Galaxy S21, Samsung is finally picking up on this trend in its most popular smartphone series. The new Samsung smartphone comes on the market at a price that is almost 200 euros below that of the Galaxy S20 from last year.

The Galaxy S21, which costs around 850 euros, has a faster processor, a new design and a three-lens camera with wide-angle, ultra-wide-angle and telephoto lenses – similar to the Galaxy S20. The camera function has also received a few upgrades that offer additional shooting modes and other useful features. But there is nothing that can really change the smartphone experience.

But that’s exactly the point: Tech companies no longer manage to introduce completely new upgrades for smartphones every year that meaningfully change the way we use cell phones. Instead, this year Samsung has concentrated on developing an attractive, sensibly designed smartphone that eliminates the Galaxy S20’s biggest problem: the high price.

The smartphone is available in three versions: the standard Galaxy S21 from 850 euros, the Galaxy S21 Plus from 1,049 euros and the Galaxy S21 Ultra for 1,249 euros.

design

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

The biggest and most noticeable change to the Galaxy S21 is very likely the design and the way it feels. The back of the device now has a matt plastic surface, which makes it easier to grip and more resistant to smear residues. In addition, the edges are flat instead of curved, which makes the Galaxy S21 more comfortable to hold.

The camera on the S21 is much more pronounced. In itself, the camera is matte, just like the rest of the back, but instead of hiding the lenses, Samsung has made it even more noticeable. Like the previous Samsung smartphones, the Galaxy S21 only has a tiny opening for the front camera. This gives the smartphone a slim look that makes it look more like a uniform glass plate. The iPhone 12, for example, has a much larger cutout at the top of the screen for the selfie camera and Face ID sensors.

Thanks to the thinner frame of the Galaxy S21 and the practically invisible “notch” for the front camera, Samsung has also managed to integrate a slightly larger display into the smartphone. Although the S21 is exactly the same size as the iPhone 12, the iPhone has a 6.1-inch display and the S21 a 6.2-inch display. This means that the S21 is slightly larger than the iPhone 12 and also a bit thicker and heavier. Samsung’s device is 7.9 millimeters thin and weighs 169 grams, while the iPhone 12 is 7.4 mm thin and weighs 135 grams.

In addition, the S21 – like many other Android phones – has another advantage that iPhone owners don’t have: a fingerprint sensor in the display to unlock the device in addition to face recognition. At a time when masking is mandatory, it is often difficult to only use face recognition.

Display

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

Samsung is known for the colorful AMOLED displays in its smartphones. That doesn’t change with the Galaxy S21 either. Although the screen is technically worse than that of the Galaxy S20 due to the resolution, the Galaxy S21 still offers a sharp resolution with 2,400 x 1,080 pixels.

The iPhone 12 has a slightly sharper screen compared to the 421 pixels per inch with a resolution of 2,532 x 1,170 pixels per inch. But on a screen this size, the difference is almost invisible. The biggest difference in display quality between the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 is in the way the S21 displays colors. When watching a YouTube video, for example, the colors on the Galaxy S21 look a bit stronger and livelier in comparison.

Whether the Samsung display is better ultimately depends primarily on your preferences. While some prefer the bold colors of the Galaxy S21, the iPhone’s images seem more natural to others.

camera

The latest smartphones from Samsung, Apple or Google all have a high-quality camera. Smartphones have made impressive advances in their photo capabilities in recent years, both through improved editing features and the addition of additional lenses.

So the question is not whether the Galaxy S21 has a good camera, but to what extent it is an advantage or disadvantage compared to its competitors. Most large smartphones have excellent cameras, but some do better than others in certain shooting modes.

The advantage of the Galaxy S21, for example, is that it is equipped with three lenses: a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens with a 120-degree field of view, a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and a 64-megapixel telephoto camera. Apple and Google devices lack this telecamera. They only have wide and ultra wide angle cameras in their smartphones instead, which means the S21 offers better zoom.

You can take a look at our test pictures below. The Galaxy S21’s camera isn’t even fully zoomed in, and yet it is much closer than the photos that were taken with the iPhone 12 and Google Pixel 5, which were zoomed in as close as possible.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

Apple iPhone 12

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Google Pixel 5

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

The iPhone is better at taking photos in the dark, as you can see in the following shots. While all photos are clear and well-lit, the iPhone brings out most of the details.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

Apple iPhone 12

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

Google Pixel 5

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

When it comes to overall picture quality, Samsung outperforms its competitors in a few ways, but cannot keep up with others. The S21 often displays the colors a bit too bright. When photographing a snowman, however, the Samsung photo shows a lot more details and is also brighter than that of the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

Apple iPhone 12

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Google Pixel 5

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

Overall, Samsung’s camera is characterized by a clearer zoom, a higher level of detail and a variety of recording modes. One of the few features with which the Galaxy S21 differs from its predecessor is, for example, the new Director Mode, with which you can take pictures with all three camera lenses and the front camera at the same time.

In addition, the Samsung Galaxy S21 offers a recording mode called “Single Take”, which was already available on the S20, but has better effects on the S21. This mode takes several different types of photos and videos with a single press of the shutter button.

Performance and battery life

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is the company’s first smartphone to be powered by a processor made using 5-nanometer process technology, replacing last year’s 7-nanometer Galaxy S20 series processor. Depending on the region, this is either the Snapdragon 888 processor from Qualcomm or the Exynos 2100 chip from Samsung.

That means more power and better efficiency, as Samsung and Qualcomm were able to pack even more transistors (5nm versus 7nm) in their chips, which have more effective energy management. The latest iPhones from Apple also run with a 5nm processor.

The Galaxy S21 performs smoothly and quickly for everyday tasks, whether you’re playing games, opening apps, or taking photos.

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

The Galaxy S21 can also keep up with more demanding tasks such as exporting 4K videos, although it is not quite as fast as the iPhone 12. The Samsung smartphone needed something to export a 25-second 4K video in 1080p to Adobe Rush less than 30 seconds, while the iPhone did it in 10-12 seconds.

A series of tests simulating real-world app usage and graphics performance came up with the result that the iPhone 12 outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S21. In the Geekbench 5 CPU test (Central Processing Unit), a test that measures the performance of the devices in everyday life, the Galaxy S21 scored an average of 1,098 points in the single-core test and 3,259 points in the multi-core test. In comparison, the iPhone 12 achieved an average of 1,591 points in the single-core test and 3,952 points in the multi-core version.

In another graphics test, the 3DMark Wild Life test, which evaluates the performance of devices in games based on short bursts of high activity, the Galaxy S21 scored 4,848 points and averaged 29 frames per second (fps). The iPhone 12, on the other hand, achieved an average value of 8,324 and an average frame rate of 49 frames per second.

When it comes to battery life, however, the Samsung smartphone has the lead. The Galaxy S21 lasted almost 13 hours, 12 hours and 46 minutes to be precise, while the iPhone gave up after 11 hours and 54 minutes. To test the battery life of these smartphones, a 10-hour YouTube video was continuously streamed and repeated on both devices at 1080p resolution, with the screen brightness set to the highest level on both devices. But since most people don’t stream videos for hours at full brightness, longer battery life is likely to be expected in everyday life.

Should you buy it?

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is an excellent choice for Android fans who want a big, compact screen, long battery life, and a solid camera. It’s not a real upgrade from previous models unless you have a Galaxy S9 or older.

What are your alternatives?

Google’s € 500 Pixel 4a 5G is also a good choice for Android fans looking for a similar device at a cheaper price. It has a 6.2-inch screen like the Galaxy S21 and a dual-lens camera, but it lacks some extra features like face recognition or the third camera lens that the S21 has.

Samsung is also offering two other versions of the Galaxy S21 in case you’re willing to spend a little more. If you are looking for a larger smartphone, the 6.7-inch Galaxy S21 Plus, which costs around 1,000 euros, could be a suitable option for you. The screen size is the biggest difference between the S21 and the S21 Plus, but the S21 Plus can also serve as a digital car key thanks to its ultra-broadband technology.

If you are not really into Android, then the iPhone 12 is the better choice. It is similarly priced (starting at 800 euros) and comes with a 6.1-inch display that is almost the same size as the Galaxy S21. The iPhone 12 also offers fast performance and excellent camera quality, despite only having two lenses instead of three.

Conclusion

Lisa Eadicicco / Insider

With the € 800 Galaxy S21, Samsung is bringing its flagship smartphone back below the € 1,000 mark, which is a welcome change that seems right for a new smartphone in 2021. There are no real changes to the previous model, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Galaxy S21 isn’t perfect, the iPhone 12 is faster and has a better low-light camera, but the Galaxy S21 still has a fabulous balance of features, design quality, and performance for a good price.

Benefits: Attractive new design that feels better in the hand, great camera, long battery life

Disadvantage: Low light photos could be better

This text has been translated from English. You can find the original here.

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