Presented on February 14, the Samsung Galaxy S21 range succeeds the S20, and is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone 12. In addition to our test of the S21 Ultra, which is an almost perfect solution for everyday use, the editors also had the opportunity to test the Samsung Galaxy S21, and its improved version, the S21+. No big differences, you’ll see, but a very high-end experience for both iterations of the range, which is the first to get rid of its charger block to offer thinner boxes.
Design et ergonomie
For once, the Galaxy S21 range has its own identity this year, with an imposing photo block that has the particularity of being integrated into the edges of the smartphones. A risk that will not please everyone in terms of design, but which has the merit of being original, and which allows the S21 to stand out immediately from the rest of the models currently on the market, including its great rival the iPhone 12. Regarding the S21+, we find a frosted glass back as on the S21 Ultra, in black, silver and purple colors. A slight upmarket compared to the first S21, which is content with a back in matte plastic, a little less prestigious. Another notable difference is that the S21+ has a 6.7-inch screen, compared to the 6.2-inch screen of the classic S21. This is enough to suit XXL screen lovers, even if we still don’t go beyond the Ultra iteration of the range, with its 6.8-inch diagonal.
On the S21 side, we do not benefit from glass on the back, but plastic. Nevertheless, it is a very good quality plastic and the difference between the S21 and the S21+ is not very noticeable. This will not be an argument against the Galaxy S21, which will have for him its more compact size, much more practical for one-handed use. As for the Galaxy S21+, after several days of testing, its grip is particularly pleasant. Apart from the tendency of the shell to catch fingerprints, the feel of the frosted glass is a safe bet, and the smartphone is surprisingly balanced despite its 202 grams at the weight. On the security side, the S21 and S21+ feature Qualcomm’s new ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. Presented as twice as responsive and 70% larger than its predecessor, we must admit that the tool did not fail during the entire test, proving to be much faster and more reliable than on the previous range. Finally, as far as its connectors are concerned, the S21 and S21+ follow the recipe of the S20, with a blank left side, and a right side equipped with the power and volume buttons. The SIM drawer, on the other hand, has moved to the bottom of the smartphones, right next to the USB-C socket.
We won’t venture to say that the S21 is the most beautiful terminal ever imagined by Samsung. On the other hand, the Korean giant succeeded in creating an object with a strong design, recognizable at first glance. A risk we can only welcome.
Screen and audio
It’s no secret that Samsung is a master of the screen. The manufacturer continues its momentum with the S21, which offers a Super AMOLED panel of 6.2 inches, and the S21+ and its large super AMOLED panel of 6.7 inches in 2400*1080 px resolution. A real joy in everyday life, which allows both an intense display, even in sunlight, but also a controlled colorimetry. The icing on the cake, the smartphone embeds with it an adaptive refresh rate of 120 Hz. In concrete terms, in addition to ensuring perfect fluidity on your mobile FPS games and on your Tiktok feed, the S21 and S21+ will also be able to adapt and revise their refresh rate downwards depending on the situation. A good way to save some battery during the day, while enjoying one of the best panels on the market.
On the sound side, the rendering is unsurprisingly a little less brilliant. Samsung offers stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support on its entire S21 range. Enough to listen to music at moderate volume, or watch a movie in bed. For the rest, we advise you to invest in a speaker worthy of the name. As on the majority of smartphones released after 2019, there is no jack 3.5, Samsung preferring to bet on its Bluetooth headphones. For French users, the smartphones bend to the legislation, and always embark a pair of wired AKG USB-C headphones. Nothing exceptional, but always useful in case of need.
Performance, autonomy and software
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ have a particularly attractive technical sheet. In addition to their high-flying screen, the terminals have an Exynos 2100 processor designed by Samsung, and 8 GB of RAM. Obviously, we would have preferred to find a Snapdragon 888, still reserved for the U.S. market, but on a daily basis, the SoC has nothing to envy the competition. We were able to run several recently released games that are known to be very power-hungry, such as Genshin Impact or Call of Duty Mobile, and we have to admit that the result is perfect: fluid, without overheating and very well optimized. The benchmark results also speak for themselves on the S21 and S21+, it’s a flawless performance.
The two models come with two storage options – 128 and 256 GB – and offer a similar technical specification, from their components to their Android 11 OS, overlaid with Samsung One UI 3.1. Even if the S21 range only signs a small evolution compared to the S20, it does not lose its premium status. Obviously, both models are 5G compatible. If Samsung had chosen not to equip the entire S20 range with the new mobile standard released last year, the shot is now corrected.
Regarding its autonomy, the Samsung Galaxy S21 has a battery of 4000 mAh, while the S21+ has a slight increase, with 4800 mAh. For both iterations of the range, the autonomy is more than correct, and allows an all day use, even intensive. In both cases, we appreciate the presence of the fast wired charge in 25W (which requires a charger block not included in the box), the compatibility with the fast wireless charge, and the Powershare.
Photo & Video
Despite a good effort to melt its photo block at the level of its edges, Samsung retains a bulky appendage, which could bother users already inconvenienced by the size of the block of the S20. On the other hand, if the S21 Ultra benefits from a photo block similar to the Note 20 Ultra, the S21 and S21+ carry the same artillery. We find at the front, a single front sensor of 10 MP in f/2.2, housed in a single central punch. At the back, the terminals embark a main sensor of 12 MP (f/1.8), a 3x telephoto lens of 64 MP, and an ultra-wide angle of 12 MP.
In use, the rendering is very successful. Those used to Samsung will recognize a contrast a little more advanced than necessary, but which allows to accentuate the details, especially in night mode. The brand is continuing its momentum, also improving its AI on the recognition of scenes, and simplifying its general interface. The Single Take mode is also back in a revised version of the most pleasant.
Regarding video shooting, the terminals allow 8K capture in 24 fps. A promising possibility, but it requires optimal conditions to live up to our expectations. In 4K and 60 fps on the other hand, the rendering is more accessible. Rather practical, we also find the possibility of filming in slow motion up to 960 fps in 1080p. It is also possible to pause the video directly during the shooting, a feature that Samsung is for the moment the only manufacturer to offer.