With the Ultra having the clear technological superiority, the Galaxy S21 and S21+ offer to fill smaller pockets and smaller budgets instead. In fact, these two are €50 cheaper than their 2020 predecessors (if you look at the 5G models).
The Contour-Cut camera and dual-tone paint jobs help these two stand out from the crowd. Their flat screens are similarly distinctive in an age where “premium” equates to “curved screen”.
These two phones are nearly twins in terms of hardware, but their size makes them easily to tell apart. And it’s exactly their size and what that entails that make them different. So, we’ll start with what the two models have in common.
Let’s get it out of the way – yes, both the S21 and S21+ have 1080p+ displays, a downgrade from the 1440p+ resolution of the S20 series. The new panels have an adaptive refresh rate, however, which adjusts depending on the content from 48Hz to 120Hz.
Hiding behind the display is an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that 70% larger than last year. No, the camera isn’t under the display, you get a standard punch hole with the same 10MP resolution as before.
Which brings us to the rear cameras. The major upgrades here stem from the new chipsets rather than the units themselves. The chips can handle three streams simultaneously, meaning you see a live preview three cameras at the same time.
The main camera uses a 12MP sensor with large 1.8µm pixels and Dual Pixel AF, same as last year. It sits behind an f/1.8 lens with OIS. Strangely, the 12MP ultrawide-angle (120°) camera has not gained autofocusing abilities as the Ultra did.
The 64MP camera is back to serve double duty. In photo mode, it offers 3X lossless zoom (with autofocus and OIS) and up to 30x “Space Zoom”. In video mode, it can record in 8K resolution at the same 24fps as last year.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G has a 6.2” screen, making it one of the more compact flagships around. And while it has Gorilla Glass Victus guarding the screen, the back gets the “glasstic” treatment as if this was an A-series phone.
Also, battery capacity remains at 4,000 mAh, which didn’t last long on the 2020 model. This year, however, Samsung is employing two 5nm chipsets and the Adjustable Refresh Rate display to help reduce power usage.
The two chipsets in question are the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100, of course, once again dividing the world into zones of exclusive availability. There are no 4G-only versions this time around. The good news for Exynos-land is that the two chips are fabbed at the same foundries and use many of the same ARM-designed parts.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G is larger with a 6.7” screen. It’s only a tenth smaller than Ultra’s screen and since its flat, it may even look larger side by side. Also, the Plus gets a back panel that is made of actual glass.
And a battery upgrade to boot – the 4,800 mAh capacity is 300 mAh than last year. In terms of charging, all three S21 models are the same. They can go up to 25W with a suitable USB Power Delivery charger (which you have to supply yourself, there’s little besides a USB-C cable in the box). Wireless charging is rated at 15W going in and 9W going out.
The S21+ has only one other advantage over its vanilla sibling – Ultra Wide Band (UWB) support. This allows for faster local phone-to-phone data transfers and has direction-sensing capabilities used with tracking tags.
Beyond that, the phones are the same. They get the same memory options too, with a disappointing 8GB of RAM as the standard and only option. Not that you need 12GB of RAM, but even the S10 had 8GB.
As for storage, you get 128GB as standard and can opt into 256GB. This will be all the storage you have as besides removing the charger, Samsung also dropped the microSD slot. Again, few people need more than 256GB, but there’s no upside in removing the slot.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G color options
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G color options
The Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ start at €850/£770 and €1,050/£950, respectively. They will be on pre-order from tomorrow until January 29 when they will go into stores. If you order before then, you will receive a pair of Galaxy Buds Live and a Samsung SmartTag for free.