The Galaxy S21 strikes a very good stability of options and value which ought to make it interesting to lots of people.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S21 lineup is now obtainable. Before you purchase one, the greatest takeaway it’s good to learn about the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, together with the Galaxy S21 Plus 5G and Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, is that Samsung lower the US value of every by $200 (the financial savings are much less in different nations). Clearly this wasn’t executed out of generosity and Samsung’s made trade-offs to hit that cheaper price on the Galaxy S21: The wall charger and headphones do not are available the field, the phone does 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 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 truth, every phone in 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” phone that you simply’re more likely to get from a provider. And lots of people are going to get this phone.

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


  • Lower value
  • Design
  • Android 11/OneUI 3.1
  • High refresh charge display

Don’t Like

  • Less RAM
  • Display is solely HD
  • Gets heat when utilizing it
  • Lacks a microSD slot

The S21 is a major rethink by Samsung, which can have tried to push the S20 to be too premium. But the firm discovered a very good stability when it comes to value, options and design for the S21.

The Galaxy S21 will get a placing new look

Without a doubt the very first thing I discover about the S21 is its design. This two-tone strategy offers the phone an art-deco sensibility. Well, sort of. Samsung made the digital camera bump larger and extra industrial-looking. I can nearly envision somebody at Samsung looking for the excellent drill press to make the digital camera cutouts simply the proper dimension.

The bump seemingly melts into the sides. The purple and gold S21 I reviewed (the coloration’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 shocked us with its adjustments


The plastic again has a matte end and feels nice. I do know individuals 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 an entire package deal ,the S21 has a placing design.

Lower decision display with a excessive refresh charge

The hole-punch display, which Samsung calls the Infinity-O show, is my present favourite workaround for avoiding a notch or large bezels. The S21’s flat show with its petite black bezel seems 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. Numerous it comes from the adaptive display refresh charge that fluctuates between 48 and 120Hz relying on what’s being displayed. So when you’re taking part in a recreation like Alto’s Odyssey, Call of Duty or Forza Street you possibly can see them in all their crisp graphical magnificence. And whenever you aren’t, the show has a decrease refresh charge in an effort to save on battery life.


The S21 brings a brand new function to its cameras known as Director’s View.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Same S20 digital camera {hardware}, however with enhancements

The digital camera {hardware} on the S21 is precisely the identical discovered on the S20 and that is not a nasty factor. On the again are three cameras: a large, ultrawide and telephoto. I relatively like the ultrawide on the S21, it could be my favourite ultrawide digital camera on an Android phone.

Photos look nice. Autofocus is quick and might change between foreground and background rapidly. 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 at the high 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 photograph was about two blocks away. I took the photograph at 10x magnification.

Patrick Holland/CNET


I attempted Single Shot mode on this lovely canine. The phone chosen this picture and even added a filter to it.

Patrick Holland/CNET


The ultrawide digital camera on the Galaxy S21 collection is my favourite on any Android phone.

Patrick Holland/CNET


Here’s one other evening mode photograph. I’m shocked 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 wonderful. Skin tones in selfie images look good, particularly with all of the “face” results turned off. But I ought to observe, there are individuals who wish to have the possibility. So, there’s that.


This selfie was taken with pores and skin smoothing turned off.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Samsung added a enjoyable new video function known as Director’s View. While you document, there are thumbnail previews of reside feeds coming from all the different cameras. There is a side-by-side format for vlogging or a stacked format when you’re capturing vertically. This permits you to document your self with the selfie digital camera and present what you are seeing or reacting to utilizing any of the rear cameras you select.

I believed Director’s View could be extra like a gimmick, however I can see individuals eager 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 as much as have my selfie video feed on the left and one in every of the 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 chip

Powering the S21 is the 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 the whole lot from photograph edits to gameplay (at 120Hz) simply nice. 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 obtained heat downloading massive information like video games and movies, or after I performed a recreation for longer than 20 minutes. One time whereas working the benchmark take a look at 3D Mark the phone 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 phone did not get scorching. 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, this is a one-day phone. 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 3.1

The S21 comes with Android 11 topped with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 interface. I find it irresistible. There are extra methods to default to Google companies, corresponding to utilizing Google Pay as a substitute of Samsung Pay, or including the Google Discover News feed to the dwelling display 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 fashionable. There are additionally new widgets which you can add to your lock display. I’m a giant fan of how a lot the software program is weighted towards the backside of the show, which makes one-handed navigation straightforward. 

The Galaxy S21 helps 5G

And final, the Galaxy S21 is a 5G phone. It helps each sub-6 and mmWave variations of 5G, that means in the US you will have your alternative of the three main carriers. 5G should not be the sole cause to get this phone. But the S21 can be many individuals’s first 5G phone and its speeds and connection ought to enhance as carriers hold bettering 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 421ppi 563ppi 405ppi 402ppi
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) 71.2×151.7×7.9mm 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
Camera 64MP (telephoto), 12MP (wide-angle), 12MP (ultrawide) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 12-megapixel (commonplace), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 8-megapixel (3x telephoto) 48-megapixel (commonplace), 16-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (monochrome)
Front-facing digital camera 10MP 10-megapixel 32-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video seize 8K 8K 4K 4K
Processor Snapdragon 888 Snapdragon 865 (5G) Snapdragon 865 (5G) Samsung Exynos 990 (4G) Snapdragon 865
Storage 128GB/256GB 128GB 128GB 128GB, 256GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB 1TB No
Battery 4,000 mAh 4,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 4,500 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No No No
Special options IP68 ranking, 5G-enabled, 30x Space Zoom, 10W wi-fi charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh charge; waterproof (IP68) 120Hz display refresh charge, assist for 30W quick charging and 15W quick wi-fi charging 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh charge; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM)
Price off-contract at launch (USD) $800 (128GB), $850 (256GB) $999 $699 $749
Price (GBP) £769 (128GB), £819 (256GB) £799 (4G), £899 (5G) £599 (4G), £699 (5G) £549
Price (AUD) $1,249 (128GB), $1,349 (256GB) AU$1349 (4G), AU$1,499 (5G) AU$999 (4G), AU$1,149 (5G) AU$1,149

First revealed Jan. 21.

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