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Samsung Galaxy S21 review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is an odd handset on paper, but having spent a week using it we’ve found it to be a highly capable handset that’s a pleasure to use, despite a couple of specs being dropped from previous handsets, notably the Galaxy S20 from 2020.

Why does the Samsung Galaxy S21 have lesser specs than the Galaxy S20? Two reasons. The first is that Samsung wanted to drop the price of its handset – the S21 starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 compared to the Galaxy S20 5G’s $999 / £899 / AU$1,499.

 

The second is that the company is also putting a bigger focus on its Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – and unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020, it’s a handset we’d readily recommend to those who are desperate to try the company’s latest innovations, and happy to pay for them.

That makes the S21 a significantly less exciting Galaxy S phone than we’re used to seeing, but make no mistake: the Galaxy S21 is still a fantastic handset choice, albeit with a few tweaked specs compared to the Galaxy S20 – and that price drop is likely to attract a lot more people to the S series.

If you want a larger screen but similar specs, there’s also the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. That is a remarkably similar phone to this, and the big differences are the phone’s size, its battery capacity and it has a slightly more premium glass back.

Back to the S21, and the chipset is powerful, the camera software has improved over recent models, and the battery life is strong, giving you a solid day of use from a full charge, alongside effective fast-charging and wireless charging options.

Samsung has opted for a lower-spec screen than the one on the S20, with a Full HD+ 6.2-inch display, but it offers a 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth scrolling and graphics,  fantastic colors, and strong brightness levels – and we didn’t notice the lower resolution in most of our testing.

The chipset – we’ve tested the Exynos 2100 version of the phone – is also powerful, delivering some fantastic results real-world use as well as in benchmarking software.

If you already own a Samsung Galaxy S20, or if you can find that handset for a significant discount, you won’t want to opt for the Galaxy S21 – while the new phone gains in some areas it loses in others, and overall there’s not much between the two phones – certainly not enough to justify paying a couple of hundred dollars or pounds more.

Conversely, if you’re after the top-end tech that Samsung is selling this year then you’ll want to check out the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. But if you’re after a (much) cheaper alternative to that phone, that shares a lot of the same design language and features, and which works fantastically well for everyday tasks, the Galaxy S21 is just that.

Samsung Galaxy S21 release date and price

  • Samsung S21 release date was January 29, 2021
  • Samsung S21 price starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249
  • Want higher specs? You’ll pay $849 / £819 / AU$1,349

The Samsung Galaxy S21 release date was Friday, January 29, 2021 for most of the world, including the US, UK and Australia. That means you can readily buy the smartphone now from a variety of retailers, carriers and networks in all three of those countries.

The Samsung S21 was was officially unveiled on January 14, 2021 which was the earliest in a year we’ve seen the company introduce its new smartphone technology.

The Galaxy S21 price is remarkably lower than that of the S20 at launch, with Samsung trimming a few specs, including reducing the maximum display resolution and dropping microSD support, in order to make this possible.

The Galaxy S21 price starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 for a version with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. There’s also a 256GB and 8GB RAM variant, and that costs $849 / £819 / AU$1,349.

The Galaxy S20 5G price started at $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 so the new phone is quite a bit cheaper. If you want the very top-end specs, you’ll be looking for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which sports perks like a QHD+ display and expandable storage, but which comes with a much higher price tag.

It’s also worth noting that all of Samsung’s S21 phones are 5G-compatible in 2021, so you won’t be able to buy a 4G-only variant. Instead, Samsung had made its 5G-compatible smartphones more competitively priced, so you’ll be getting a future-proofed option even if you don’t intend to use next-gen connectivity in the near future.

Looking for a slightly higher spec Samsung Galaxy S21 handset? The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus starts at $999 / £949 / AU$1,549 with the Galaxy S21 Ultra taking the honor of the series’ most expensive phone at $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,849.

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