Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: The Verdict
There are likely a lot of very disappointed Samsung fans this year. They were probably hoping for a phone designed just for them with every conceivable spec and feature. The Galaxy S21 is definitively not that.
While that is unfortunate, it doesnt seem like Samsung is too worried about those buyers. With the Galaxy S21, its clear that Samsung is OK with alienating its die-hard fans in the hopes that it will entice more mainstream users. The price, features, and design of the Galaxy S21 all scream Honda rather than Mercedes. That might be a tough pill to swallow for Galaxy S lovers, but its the right move to make during a global pandemic.
Ultimately, thats the choice you have with this phone and the Galaxy S21 family in general. Do you want stylish, fast, and economical, or do you want powerful, luxurious, and expensive? This phone fits very firmly in the first category.
In the end, the Galaxy S21 is great at being what it is. There are some notable flaws but the price more than makes up for them. This will be a terrific phone for people who can afford a flagship but dont see the need to spend $1,000+ for features theyll never use. Its not going to win any innovation awards, but it doesnt need to. Its a solid phone that wont give you sticker shock, and thats a fine thing to be.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Battery Life
The Galaxy S21 draws power from a 4,000mAh battery, the same capacity as last year’s phone. With the same screen, a newer, more efficient chipset, and an adaptive refresh rate display, logic dictates that the S21 will have at least a little bit better endurance.
Turns out, it’s a lot better. Let’s… unpack. We measured 27:30h in voice calls – a much longer result than even the S20+’s 21 hours, not to mention the S20’s 14 hours. As for web browsing, the S21 stands at virtually identical 11 hours . Video playback returned dramatically improved numbers – we clocked 15 hours of offline video playback.
We carried out these tests in the Adaptive refresh rate mode, while constantly monitoring the current refresh rate thanks to Android 11’s built-in tool. Our web browsing script refreshes pages every 10s and every refresh triggered a spike in the refresh rate to 120Hz which then dropped back down to 60Hz 1-2s later. We reckon that’s a behavior fairly representative of real-world use – you swipe on the screen, refresh rate shoots to 120Hz, you then read for a bit, it goes down. As for the video playback, the phone maintained a 120Hz refresh rate throughout the test – since it does actually do that when playing back 24fps content, we think that this, too, is a good representation of real-life usage.
With all that in mind, we arrive at an overall Endurance rating of 93h for the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G.
Galaxy S21 Fe Vs Galaxy S: Glass Front Plastic Back
The Galaxy S21 and S21 FE take a similar route to keep their price in check, pairing Gorilla Glass Victus along the phone’s front with a matte “glasstic” back that sandwiches an aluminum frame. Some users may frown on Samsung for using a plastic back on $700+ smartphones, but ultimately, with most people usually putting their phone in a case, it won’t matter much. On the bright side, plastic does not crack nearly as easily as glass, though it does pick up scratches. Both phones are IP68 certified, capable of getting submerged in up to 1.5m depth of water for up to 30 minutes without any issues.
Aside from those differences in size and weight, the phones more or less share a design. The Galaxy S21 FE does have a larger footprint, thanks to a larger display, something that certain shoppers may see as a selling point. The only difference comes from the camera hump on the S21 FE, which is made of plastic rather than the metal extension seen on the regular Galaxy S21.
Both phones are available in a bunch of colors, one of which you’re bound to like. However, while the S21’s camera bump comes in a different shade than the body, the Fan Edition has the same color throughout. Other minor differences include the missing AKG certification for the S21 FE’s stereo speakers and the use of an optical instead of the ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner found on the mainline S21.
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Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S21 Fe Camera Samples
On the flip side, Samsung actually increased the resolution of S21 FE’s front cam to 32-MP , which is nice if you like a lot of selfies or videos for social media. But at the same time, I don’t really think this one upgrade is enough to change the overall impact of the device, leaving it feeling more like a nice bonus and less like a notable improvement.
Use Power Saving Mode
If you want to extract the best possible battery life from your Galaxy S21, use it with medium Power Saving Mode enabled. In this mode, certain features of your phone are disabled, and the maximum CPU speed is limited to 70% to extend its battery life.
I frequently use the power saving mode on my Galaxy S21 while traveling, and the device routinely lasts through a day of heavy use with enough juice still left in the tank.
Below are the features that are disabled or limited when you enable Power Saving Mode:
- Always On Display is turned off
- CPU speed is limited to 70%
- Screen brightness is reduced by 10%
- Display refresh rate is reduced to 60Hz
You can customize this mode and enable any of the features mentioned above that are important to you.
You can use the Quick Settings panel to enable Power Saving Mode easily. Alternatively, navigate to Settings > Battery and Device care > Battery > Power saving to enable and customize the mode.
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Samsung Galaxy S: Battery Life
- A 4,000mAh battery inside that lasts the whole day
- 120Hz has a detrimental effect on battery life
- Doesn’t come with a charger in the box
Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S21 is solid, although its not a game-changing improvement over the S20, as the company may have led some to believe with its new Exynos 2100 chipset.
We generally found that the phone would comfortably last a full day, but on one occasion, when we were making more use of the phones GPS signal and other power-hungry features we found the device ran out of steam by around 10pm.
Recharging the S21 is easy, using the companys 25W fast-charging tech via the phones USB-C port. Its also compatible with Qi wireless charging, and we found that worked well during our testing.
Reverse wireless charging is also supported, so you can use your phones power to top up devices such as Qi-compatible wireless headphones, but we found that to be slow, and its a feature youd likely only want to use in emergencies.
One thing missing is compatibility with Samsungs 45W chargers that worked with the S20 series. Samsung told TechRadar that its made optimizations to the 25W charging capabilities of its new phones, so 45W charging wasnt that significant a benefit.
The other thing to note here is that the Galaxy S21 doesnt come with a charger in the box. Samsung has followed in Apples footsteps by not bundling a charger with its new phones as it seeks to cut down on e-waste.
Samsung Galaxy S: What To Know About Battery Life And Battery Sizes
With three phones come three battery sizes.
It’s the last day of CES, and Samsung’s latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S21, is here after being officially unveiled Thursday at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event. The lineup includes three different variants of the phone in different sizes — the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra — each of which will have a different battery size.
As rumors predicted, the base S21 will have a 4,000-mAh battery powering its 6.2-inch screen. The S21 Plus will increase that size to 6.7 inches and in so doing will squeeze a higher capacity 4,800-mAh battery inside. The S21 Ultra will be the biggest of the three at 6.8 inches and will pack a 5,000-mAh battery.
That’s pretty much in line with the battery sizes used in the S20 series: The base model S20 has a 4,000-mAh cell and the S20 Ultra ups that to 5,000 mAh. We hope to see similar performance when it comes to battery life. You probably won’t struggle to get through a day with careful usage, but streaming video for ages and taking lots of photos and videos will likely mean you’ll need to recharge in the evening. As always, we’ll be putting the phones through our usual array of battery tests when we get hold of them.
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Galaxy S21 Fe Vs Galaxy S: Similar Cameras
The Galaxy S21 and S21 FE feature a triple-camera setup at the rear, with the same 12MP f/1.8 primary camera that’s optically stabilized. The ultra-wide camera is also the same, though the one on the FE has a slightly wider field of view: 120° vs. 123°. It is the telephoto shooter where both phones differ. While the Galaxy S21 features a 64MP telephoto sensor with 3x hybrid zoom and OIS, the Fan Edition uses an optically stabilized 8MP shooter with 3x optical zoom and a slower f/2.4 aperture.
The Galaxy S21 was praised for its consistent and impressive camera performance, and the S21 FE is no different in this regard. The latter’s zoomed-in photos are not as good as the S21 and both fall short of performance offered by the rival Pixel 6 but most users are unlikely to notice this. Due to the missing 64MP sensor, though, the Galaxy S21 Fan Edition cannot record 8K videos like the regular S21 it tops out at 4k 60fps. The sensor also allows the S21 to offer 12x digital zoom while recording videos, while the FE maxes out at 10x zoom. The latter is also limited to recording Super Steady videos at 1080p@30fps, while the S21 can record at 60fps in this mode.
The Galaxy S21 FE has a higher resolution front camera than the S21: 32MP vs. 10MP. However, the former’s selfie camera misses out on autofocus, which means it’s the S21 that can take sharper photos despite the lower resolution sensor.
Put Unused Apps To Sleep
If there are apps you dont use much, try putting them to sleep. Some of these apps continue to run in the background and will quickly drain the battery life. To put unused apps to sleep, follow the steps below:
- Tap on Battery and device care
- Tap on Background usage limits
- Toggle Put unused apps to sleep to On
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A Colorful And Comfortable Body
The smallest premium Android phone right now is a little bigger than last year’s. At 5.97 by 2.80 by 0.31 inches , it’s slightly wider than the S20’s 2.72 inches, but narrower than both the iPhone 12 and the S20 FE . I count 2.8 inches wide as the maximum for a one-handed phone, so we’re riding the edge here. At 6.03 ounces, it’s heavier than the S20 and the iPhone 12 , but lighter than the S20 FE .
The Galaxy S21 family, from left: S21 Ultra, S21+, S21
The S21 experience starts with a bright, colorful, flat 6.2-inch 1080p AMOLED screen at 120Hz. The colors seem a bit richer and higher-contrast than on the S20 FE. The phone has a plastic back, as the S20 FE does, and comes in gold, gray, pink, purple, red, or white, with a three-camera module as a slightly raised accent in the corner.
I know some people get worked up over back panel materials, but honestly, I prefer plastic over glossy glass, as plastic is less likely to scratch, less slippery, and less fingerprint-attracting.
I’m happy to say that the second-generation Qualcomm ultrasonic fingerprint sensor works more quickly and accurately than last year’s. I did have some trouble with face recognition, though, both with and without a mask on.
The S21 comes with 128GB or 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. Unlike on the S20 FE, there’s no microSD card slot. There’s also no headphone jack you can plug in USB-C headphones or go wireless.
Headphone jacks and microSD slots are a thing of the past
Boot Phone In Safe Mode
If the issue appears after installing certain apps, try to boot your phone in Safe Mode. This method allows you to restart the device by disabling third-party apps. While in Safe Mode, check the behavior of your phone’s battery. If your battery life is normal, one of the apps may be causing the issue. You can uninstall the apps one by one, starting with the ones you installed recently, or you can perform a factory reset.
Here are the steps to boot the phone in Safe Mode:
- Shut down your Samsung Galaxy S21.
- Hold down the Power button until you see the Power off message on the screen.
- Tap and hold the Power off until the Safe Mode prompt appears, then tap it to confirm.
- Let the process finish.
- When the process completes, you will see the Safe mode in the lower-left part of the home screen.
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Major Reasons Why Your Samsung Galaxy S21 Battery Drains Fast
Last January 2021, the South Korean technology company introduced the Samsung Galaxy S21 series. The said device is equipped with Android 11 and an Exynos 2100.
In terms of its battery life, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has 5,000 mAh while the Galaxy S21 Plus contains 4,800 mAh. The standard version of the S21 series only has 4,000 mAh.
Additionally, this device also sports a 120Hz AMOLED display, outstanding cameras and a good charging speed. Aside from these, several Samsung consumers were also hooked by its competitive affordable starting price of $800.
Despite how good the device is, it is worth considering that some Samsung users are worried about the fact that their Samsung Galaxy S21 battery drains fast.
To begin with, you must first consider the factors why is your battery draining fast.
The Mobile Query stated some reasons behind this issue, including the overuse of devices and using the mobile phone while charging.
To emphasize, many individuals utilize their phones for a variety of tasks, such as making long-distance calls, regularly capturing photos and videos and using social media apps. These are just a few reasons why your phone’s battery drains quickly over time, and this is completely normal.
Apart from device overuse, it is also tempting to use the device while charging. For instance, few people communicate and play with the said device, therefore, it is a major issue. It causes battery overheating and slows down the functionality of your phone.
Networking Like It’s 2022
The Galaxy S21, like its siblings, has the new Qualcomm X60 modem, which can combine bands of 5G spectrum in new ways. After speaking to several North American carriers, I just don’t think you’ll see any of those advantages until late 2021 or early 2022.
Like the S21 Ultra, the smaller S21 comes in various models for different countries, with different 5G support, and you should buy the unit that’s appropriate for your country. The US model is a single-SIM phone, with eSIM support disabled, that works on both sub-6 and millimeter-wave networks for all three US carriers. These are also the first Samsung phones to support C-band, the new 5G airwaves wireless carriers just spent more than $80 billion for.
At this moment, the S21 performs just like the S20 series and the iPhone 12 on the US 5G networks. I tested the S21 Ultra and S21 against an S20+ and iPhone 12 on the AT& T and T-Mobile networks near my home in New York City and got pretty much the same performance. That’s because none of the carriers have laid in the new network features that would take advantage of the S21’s hardware. All of the US networks still rely on combining 4G with 5G to offer the best performance, something called non-standalone 5G. T-Mobile has been experimenting with standalone 5G, but that turns out to dramatically lower download speeds in exchange for lower latency, as you’re losing those 4G channels. They need more 5G airwaves before these features become useful.
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How’s Your Galaxy S21 Battery Life So Far
With pre-orders out of the way and official sales open, early adopters of the Galaxy S21 series have had a few days to play around with the new phones and get familiar with Samsung’s latest offerings. The initial excitement around things like performance and display quality is hard to ignore, but throughout daily use, there’s one feature that’ll matter more than anything battery life.
The S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra all have good battery capacities across the board, coming in at 4000, 4500, and 5000 mAh, respectively. In real-world use, however, what does that translate to?
A few of our AC forum members are already sharing their early battery impressions, saying:
Coming from the S10 to the regular S21 I am noticing a huge difference in battery life. On the S10 it estimated almost 18hrs of battery life where the S21 is estimating only 10hrs. I notice the difference too. Just from light browsing I can see the battery percentage go down by 1% every other minute or so. Even after 2 years with the S10 my battery would last until 5 or 6pm. Shouldn’t I be…
So far, S21+ battery has been decent. I have been using it a lot the first few days, so I’m hoping it’ll get better after everything gets settled down.