We’re just two weeks into the new year, and Samsung took the wraps off its new Galaxy S21 series. Traditionally, we would have had to wait until the end of February for the announcement, but this year thanks to everything happening virtually, we got to see what Samsung has prepared for 2021 at the start of the year.
The Galaxy S21 starts at £769 and the S21 Plus starts at £949. They’re coming out on the 29th of January alongside the most premium handset of the lineup: the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which will cost an eye-watering £1,149. From our first impressions, Samsung did everything they possibly could to distinguish the regular and the Plus model of the S21 from the Galaxy S21 Ultra, putting them on two different spectrums but still keeping them in the same lineup. Samsung went with some bold moves and left many things behind with the Galaxy S21 lineup, so let’s take a look at what's new and what’s missing this time.
First things first, Samsung did not provide a free charging adapter or headphones in the bundle. It didn’t take long for Samsung to forget about their Apple mockery and join the movement of removing these from the box. Now, you’ll need to spend extra money to charge your phone and listen to music.
The external storage options are also gone. Hopefully for those among us that are hungry for extra storage space, the top internal storage configuration of 512GB will be enough. There’s now a plastic back cover on the S21 or what Samsung calls it ‘glastic’, and the screen resolution on the S21 and S21 Plus is limited to FHD+.
There are several improvements to look forward to in each model, but you’ll have to make tough choices if you’re looking for the best that Samsung currently has to offer.
The first thing that catches your eye is the redesign. The back of the phones feature a rear camera array that is molded into the phone. It sits in the top left edge of the phone and seemingly melts into the sides, visually wrapping the entire handset. Two-tone colour combinations also compliment the new design. The cameras stand out and have glossy finishes, but the back panel is matte which will help with reducing fingerprint marks.
The S21 Plus and the S21 Ultra have an all-glass design, however the S21 feels a lot lighter in the hand due to the new plastic back, which is one of the cost-cutting measures Samsung has opted in for. Whether it’s a disadvantage, we’ll leave for you to decide, but from our observations you get used to it surprisingly quickly and it’ll be slightly more scratch-resistant and less prone to shattering like glass backs are.
On the front, there’s the Infinity-O display and the selfie camera which sits neatly in a tiny cutout which to date is likely to be one of the most elegant ‘notch’ designs. We were hoping that Samsung might go ahead and be the first to feature an in-display front camera, but apparently it’s not the time for it so early into 2021. However, we believe that they will become mainstream soon enough. Both the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus feature a flat screen, whereas the S21 Ultra has a slight curve. It’s interesting to observe how Samsung, once releasing every single model with a curved screen, have since made it a premium feature that only the top of the line model deserves.
Samsung is known for featuring their best displays across the lineup, but this is not the case anymore as both the 6.2-inch S21 and the 6.7-inch S21 Plus screen resolution tops at FHD+. If you are after WQHD+, Samsung is encouraging you to pick the 6.8-inch S21 Ultra, which is now compatible with an optional add-on S Pen accessory. The 1080p resolution will perform sharply on the S21 duo and an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz will deliver an enviable smooth scrolling experience. With the S21 Ultra, Samsung now allows you to select 120Hz rate at the maximum resolution of 1440 x 3200. It’s good to finally have this option and be able to max out the screen performance, but you’re likely to experience higher battery drain if you opt for this. Despite these specification differences, we expect the S21 trio to be among the smartphones with the best performing displays on the market in 2021.
In the UK, all three models will be powered by Samsung’s 5nm Exynos 2100. It’s claimed to deliver a 35% GPU boost and a 20% increase in CPU performance compared to its predecessors. The S21 series also comes with 5G support, and there are no longer 4G-only models available. This was expected given that 5G is being implemented in more cities across the country, and these phones are ready to offer the best connectivity.
The S21 has a 4,000 mAh battery and the S21 Plus offers a 4,800 mAh cell. Both models come with either 128GB and 256GB internal storage options with 8GB of RAM as standard. However, the S21 Ultra gives you a choice of 12GB of RAM with 128GB or 256GB storage, or if you go with the maximum storage capacity of 512GB, you will enjoy 16GB of RAM. It looks as though expandable storage has been traded in for extra RAM on the S21 Ultra. The battery on the S21 Ultra is gigantic at 5,000 mAh, and the entire lineup supports 25W fast charging.
Out of the three models, the S21 Ultra undoubtedly has the most exciting rear camera setup. There are four rear cameras: second generation of the wide 108MP camera paired with a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and for maximum zoom capabilities it features a 10MP 10x periscope telephoto lens and a 10MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom. On the front you also get a 40MP wide selfie camera.
The S21 and S21 Plus share identical camera specifications: a 12MP wide selfie camera and on the back a 64MP telephoto lens with 3x hybrid zoom, an ultra-wide 120-degree 12MP sensor and an additional 12MP wide lens. All three models support 8K video recording which is likely to eat up a lot of your storage space, so be cautious as there’s no longer a micro SD card.
On their own, each model’s specs look impressive when compared to its starting price, but this is always the case with Samsung’s flagship models, especially when they’re releasing their S21 series lineup untraditionally early this year. With the S21 series, it becomes apparent that Samsung reserved the top of the line specs for the S21 Ultra. Compared to the regular S21 with a plastic back, the price of almost £400 more for the Ultra seems reasonable because now there are considerable differences, and if you want the best of the best, you will need to pay a premium price for it. Luckily, you can easily find the best price to sell your current Galaxy S smartphone and chip away at significant upgrade cost.
Cover image: Samsung
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