Before I share my experience on the Samsung Galaxy S21, all the experience is based on the latest January update (G991BXXU1AUAB) so my experience might be varied at the time of writing. Now let’s get back to Galaxy S21 experience highlight.
What do you really expect from a flagship smartphone in 2021? Let’s say if you can only choose two from this three selection: Great performance, lots of amazing features or one-of-a-kind design? If you want something balanced that offers all three selection, then Galaxy S21 might be the one. Let’s read more to find out why Samsung Galaxy S21 can offer great performance, lots of amazing features and one-of-a-kind design.
Without a doubt, the S21 has an amazing design thanks to the new rear camera bump. The rear camera bump is now protected with a metal contour that sits on the left top corner. While the back cover is using Glasstic (plastic that feels like glass back), it is comfortable to hold while less fingerprint smudges appearing thanks to the matte finish. The striking aluminium sides finish also made the S21 looks even premium.
With the Exynos 2100 that is paired along with 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage, performance was not an issue for the Galaxy S21. The device never once felt sluggish for multitasking and instantaneously. However, there were certain apps still requires optimization as I noticed certain app does have random crashed. At the moment, the device can play any demanding games like Genshin Impact with high settings, however it still need some more optimization for Galaxy S21.
Another key area for the performance is the cooling solution. Compared to the previous S20 series, the S21 only feels slightly warm when you start pushing to the limit with multiple app running simultaneously or gaming with high settings.
OneUI 3.1 with Android 11 on the Galaxy S21 feels better than ever with features that benefit users for work, entertainment and personal. The partnership with Microsoft allows a seamless wireless connection between S21 and PC and Samsung app provides various tools that can help user with health (Samsung Health), connection (SmartThings) and so on. Samsung DeX is still around so users hook to a monitor wired or wirelessly to make the S21 a desktop.
Although this time the S21 spots a 1080p 6.2 inch flat AMOLED display, visual experience is still top notch. On top of it, it supports 120hz adaptive fast refresh rate and the fast scrolling experience is great. Even for gaming, the display offers an immersive gaming experience especially for Genshin Impact. For audio, the stereo speaker setup sound loud and clear for binge watching Korean drama or listening to some electronic music.
For battery life, the 4,000mAh battery will just barely last you till late evening. That is if you’re a light to medium user as I just recorded barely 6 hours of screen on time(with adaptive fast refresh turned on and sim card inside the S21). If you’re a heavy user like me, you can expect the phone to drain quickly by somewhere mid or late afternoon. If you feel battery life is important, set to standard refresh rate (60hz) and power saving mode to improve the battery life.
The camera department is great with the latest software update (G991BXXU1AUAB). For photography, the main 12MP cam can capture amazing photo with nice bokeh effect and great details. The ultrawide angle 12MP cam will comes in handy for close up and landscape shot. Distortion was barely noticeable too. On the “telephoto” camera, it’s basically a 64MP camera that offers 3x hybrid zoom and up to 30x digital zoom. Quality on the “telephoto” camera is great up till 10x zoom, however, for more than 10x zoom it will depend on the lighting. Also, when you’re zooming 20x zoom or more, there is a zoom lock function to keep steady lock on on the target. Night mode photos does looks brighter and more contrast although you can only use it with the main and ultrawide camera.
For the videos, the S21 can record up to 8K 24fps although 8K footage comes from the 64MP telephoto camera only. The ultrawide and main cam can record videos up to 4K 60fps and zooms will be using the main camera only. All three camera record great videos during daylight. For lowlight conditions, only the main cam can maintain proper noise and details while the ultrawide camera is the weakest because of soft details and artifacts. Galaxy S21 actually has a secret video recording feature, HDR10+ Video. But do take note this feature is still in beta stage and many apps doesn’t support HDR10+ Video. HDR10+ Video file need to be converted to SDR at the Gallery in order to share at other apps.
The 10MP selfie camera works well for photos and videos. Photos looks more true to life thanks to great while balance and lower saturation. It also can shoot (a little bit) wider if you want to do a groupfie. Night mode is also available on the selfie camera and it deliver an amazing photo even though the area is dark. The selfie camera can record videos up to 4K 60fps which is perfect for vloggers and content creator.
Director’s View is the latest video mode for the S21 and it’s really good vlogger. I would also recommend vloggers or filmmakers to use S21’s Pro Video mode to shoot in 24fps at 4K and 1080p, attach a mic (wired and wireless) and adjust settings like ISO and white balance to your desire. Single Take has been updated with better features to provide all the photos in one single button but I rarely use the function.
After experiencing it for nearly two weeks, the question remained is: does it offers great performance, lots of amazing features or one-of-a-kind design? Yes it does and I will rate the Galaxy S21 a solid 8 out of 10 because it has managed to delivered all three keypoints on what smartphone users are looking for. Although there are few shortcomings, it managed to offer a value for money thanks to the Exynos 2100, excellent camera, awesome AMOLED display and amazing OneUI 3.1 features.
The Galaxy S21 is worth picking up today at RM 3699 if you’re considering to upgrade your current smartphone today. Be sure to be quick to get one as Samsung Authorised Partners are offering free gifts when you purchase any Galaxy S21 series with terms and conditions applied.
*The review is made possible with a review unit sent by Samsung Malaysia. This review is not a paid review thus no final approval is needed from Samsung Malaysia. The article is solely based on the writer experiencing the device for 2 weeks and experience may be different for certain users because of the software update.