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Samsung Galaxy S21 Smartphone Review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is one of three smartphones featured in the flagship Galaxy S21 range and we're putting it to the test to find out if the triple camera set-up can capture eye-catching photos.


|  Samsung Galaxy S21 in Camera Phones
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Samsung Galaxy S21
 

 

Quick Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has an impressive camera set-up that's capable of capturing some great photos and the battery will keep you powered all day long. It also looks great and the price will suit more people as over on Amazon, it's priced at just under £640 which is around £375 cheaper than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and considerably less expensive than the Galaxy S20 was at launch. If you're looking for a new smartphone that has a reasonable price, looks great but isn't as big as other flagship smartphones are and has some great premium features, the Galaxy S21 would be a good choice.  

+ Pros

  • Great camera
  • Less expensive than the S20 was on launch 
  • Good battery
  • Lovely design

- Cons

  • No MicroSD Slot 
  • Poor Zoom (when not optical)
  • No headphone socket
 

 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the least expensive of the three flagship smartphones recently introduced by Samsung but with its impressive camera specs and a decent battery, it could be the perfect smartphone for someone who doesn't want to spend quite as much cash on a new smartphone. Some of the standout features include a triple rear camera set-up offering a 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12MP Wide and 64MP Telephoto cameras, 6.2" display, 8K video capture and various in-app creative camera modes. On paper, it's looking good so far but as always, the proof is in the photo-taking so shall we find out how well it performs? 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Features

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

As with all of the latest Samsung Galaxy S21 models, the Galaxy S21 has had a design update as well as a rework of some of the camera specs previously seen on the Galaxy S20 series which includes introducing an improved optical zoom and 8K video capture.

The Galaxy S21 sticks with the familiar triple rear camera set-up offering 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12MP Wide and 64MP Telephoto cameras (same as the 21+ but the S21 Ultra features a Quad Camera set-up) and there's a 10MP front-facing camera cut out of the 6.2" FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display. 8K video is built-in along with camera modes such as Single Take 2.0, Director's View, Portrait Mode and Space Zoom with zoom lock. You can also grab high-res photos from with the all-new motion view which captures footage just before and after you hit the shutter button. 

Single Take Mode offers 5x more AI processing along with a new dynamic slo-mo mode and a highlight real and the Portrait mode has been improved with AI-powered 3D analysis for better depth of field, among other things. Samsung also says that Space Zoom will capture clearer/steadier shots with a new zoom lock that's designed to minimise shake. 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

For those who enjoy shooting and editing videos with their smartphones, there's an all-new Director's View mode which gives you multi-angle views via live thumbnails so you can preview and change the camera lens you're capturing video with live so you don't have to make as many cuts when editing. You can also capture video with the front and rear cameras at the same time. 

Other features include a 4000mAh battery which supports wireless, super-fast & fast charging and 8GB + 128/256GB RAM/ROM. 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has an RRP of £769 but it's currently available on Amazon UK for £639.95 along with the Galaxy S21+ and S21 Ultra which you can compare the specs of, side-by-side, with the Galaxy S21 in the table below. 

 

Specs Samsung Galaxy S21 Samsung Galaxy S21+ Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Rear Camera Triple: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12Mp Wide & 64MP Telephoto Triple: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12Mp Wide & 64MP Telephoto Quad: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 108MP Wide, 10MP 10X Telephoto, 10MP 3X Telephoto
Front Camera 10MP 10MP 40MP
Display 6.2" FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.7" FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.8" WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Battery 4000mAh 4800mAh 5000mAh
RAM/ROM 8GB + 128/256GB 8GB + 128/256GB 12/16GB + 128/256/512GB
Charging Wireless, Super Fast & Fast Wireless, Super Fast & Fast Wireless, Super Fast & Fast
Dimensions 71.2x151.7x7.9mm 75.6x161.5x7.8mm 75.6x165.1x8.9mm
Weight 172g 202g 228g
Came App Improved Features Single Take 2.0, Director's View, Portrait Mode, Space Zoom with zoom lock Single Take 2.0, Director's View, Portrait Mode, Space Zoom  with zoom lock Single Take 2.0, Director's View, Portrait Mode, 100X Space Zoom with zoom lock
Video  8K video 8K video 8K video and 4K filming across all lenses at 60fps

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Key Features

  • Rear Camera: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12Mp Wide & 64MP Telephoto
  • Front Camera: 10MP
  • Display: 6.2" FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
  • Battery: 4000mAh (Wireless, Super Fast & Fast Charging)
  • RAM/ROM: 8GB + 128/256GB
  • Dimensions: 71.2x151.7x7.9mm
  • Weight: 172g
  • 8K Video
  • Camera Modes Single Take 2.0, Director's View, Portrait Mode, Space Zoom with zoom lock

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Handling

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

If you've previously owned a Samsung Galaxy smartphone the first thing you'll notice is the design change as it features a newly designed smartphone body with a contour cut camera design that blends into the metal frame, wrapping around the edge of the smartphone. A new matt finish is also applied and there's new Phantom Violet colour option, too, which we happen to have on test. 

The cameras sit stacked on the left-hand side in a unit that sits much closer to the smartphone's body which has the familiar curved corners/edges and an almost bezel-free design. As seen on previous Galaxy smartphones, the front-facing camera sits in a screen cutout, so there's no top bezel and you won't see a chin either. 

We have to say we really like the new look the Galaxy range has as it's a subtle change that's noticeably different with the contrasting camera unit's shape blending seamlessly with the body/frame of the Galaxy S21. 

As you expect from a modern-day smartphone, it feels really well built and solid in the hand but you might want to pop a case on it to stop it sliding off surfaces as many smartphones do nowadays but the Galaxy S21 isn't quite as prone to it as some handsets are as the back is actually constructed from plastic. This does mean the premium feel of more expensive smartphones with full glass backs is lost but the matte finish stops the smartphone from looking cheap and actually helps stop fingerprints from spoiling the look of the smartphone. We really like the Phantom violet colour but you can also purchase the Galaxy S21 in White, Pink and Gray. 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

On the front is a  6.2-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display which makes it the smallest of the smartphones in the new Galaxy S21 range which will please those who aren't fans of the phablet style smartphones we're seeing more of. If you do want a larger screen, you'll have to opt for the Galaxy S21+ which the Galaxy S21 shares similar specs with or the more expensive Galaxy S21 Ultra, but both are more expensive. 

The display has been downgraded when you compare it with the Galaxy S20 but in reality, it's hard to tell as colour and brightness is still superb and images look of good quality when viewed on the smartphone. It also means that the Galaxy S21 could be marketed at a less expensive launch price which makes the device more accessible. 

A metal frame surrounds the display with curved edges that are comfortable to hold and you find the usual power button/volume rocker to the side as well as a SIM tray, USB-C port and speaker on the bottom of the device. There's no headphone jack and you won't find a MicroSD card slot either so expandable storage is a 'no'. 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

The camera line-up is the same as we find on the Galaxy S20 with a 12MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide and 64MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom but improvements to AI help the Galaxy S21 capture better photos. The differences between the Galaxy S20 and S21 in terms of image quality are subtle in some places but massively different when you compare it to older Galaxy smartphones. 

Areas where the AI has been improved include the Single Take mode which captures a variety of photos/video, using all three cameras, with just one press of the shutter button. This mode was available on the Galaxy S20 range but a new slow-mo option has been added and it's just a cool, fun feature that's worth having a play around with. Another new mode is Director's View which allows you to shoot with the front and rear camera at the same time which will be great for vloggers but we're not sure if it's a feature the everyday user will be reaching for every day. 

As for the camera app itself, it's easy to use and looks very similar to many other camera apps built into modern smartphones. There's also a Pro mode should you wish to take more control over the camera settings. 

Battery life - There's a 4000mAh battery built-in which easily lasted a full day of use. You can also use fast-charging and wireless charging. 

 


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