The Galaxy S21 + is part of the new premium range from Samsung. Placing itself between the classic S21 and the S21 Ultra, it seeks to offer the best of the Korean brand without going towards an astronomical price. A smartphone worthy of its high-end status?
In the S21 family, we ask for the S21 +. A few weeks ago, Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S range, logically named S21 to stick to the current year. On the menu, three premium phones: the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 + and Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The S21 Ultra, which we have already tested in our columns, offers the best of the brand’s technology, including a very convincing quadruple photo sensor as well as a high-quality screen. The S21 and S21 + are not however outdone and have arguments to make. In fact, these two models are similar, since the difference lies in the screen size. The classic version has a 6.2-inch screen while the + version (which we are testing today) is equipped with a 6.7 inch panel. The battery capacity is also adjusted accordingly, but for the rest we are dealing with two clones.
We passed the S21 + on the grill to find out whether or not it deserves its place in the pantheon of must-have smartphones of 2021. A product all the more interesting to observe as it must correct the wanderings of a Galaxy S20 + version that had disappointed, especially in terms of autonomy.
Our video test of the Samsung Galaxy S21 +
Price and availability
Samsung’s Galaxy S21 + is available -like the other models- since January 29, 2021. It can be ordered on merchant sites or directly on the manufacturer’s site. The latter offers two exclusive colors for purchase: Phantom Gold and Phantom Red.
Read also – Samsung Galaxy S21 test: a premium proposition, but not high-end
Its price is set at 1059 euros in its 128 GB version. If you want to opt for the 256 GB version, you will have to pay 1109 euros. A steep price, but lower than the S20 + released last year.
The Galaxy S21 + has a very attractive spec sheet on paper. It hasa 6.7-inch Super AMOLED panel in Full HD + with an adaptive refresh rate of 120 Hz. Inside the phone is Samsung’s brand new Exynos 2100 processor backed by 8 GB of RAM. Note that the American version of the product includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, theoretically in the same power range.
|Galaxy s21 +|
2400 x 1080 pixels
Gorilla Glass 7
|Chipset||Exynos 2100 / Snapdragon 888|
|BONE||Android 11 + One UI 3.1|
|Main sensor||12 MP wide angle f / 1.8
12 MP ultra wide angle f / 2.2
64 MP telephoto f / 2.0
|Selfie sensor||10 MP (f / 2.2)|
|Biometrics||Ultrasonic footprint scanner under the screen|
The S21 + offers two options: 128 GB or 256 GB of memory. It will be necessary to choose carefully, since it does not have a microSD port. The battery has a capacity of 4800 mAh (fast charge 25 Watts) and its photo module is composed of three sensors, including a main one of 64 megapixels. Finally, the smartphone is equipped with Android 11 with the Samsung One UI 3.1 overlay. A very engaging technical sheet, but which only shows a timid evolution compared to the S20 +. It remains to be seen whether the phone itself is good.
A design with small onions
A Galaxy S is not only a powerful phone, it is also and above all a statutory object. It must therefore have a neat design. After a very wise S20 on this side, Samsung has outdone itself with this new version. The S21 + sports a hardened imitation metal glass shell with the most beautiful effect. It is available in three colors (plus two exclusive to the manufacturer’s website): purple, black and silver. This is the last one we got on our test copy.
In hand, the smartphone is a real pleasure to handle. The texture of the back cover is very pleasant to the touch and the silver version offers multicolored reflections of the most beautiful effect according to the surrounding light. However, the material tends to attract fingerprints. The more manic will spend their time wiping their S21 +. The weight of the terminal is perfectly balanced, which gives an impression of lightness despite its 202 grams. It is also very thin with a thickness of 7.8 mm and has the IP68 certification, which is always appreciated.
A lot of work has been done on the photo module. This one is this time perfectly integrated into the overall design of the product. Following the upper left corner of the rear cover, it is a continuation of the edges, which tends to make the overall visual more harmonious. If this remains discreet on the silver model, the thing is explicit on the purple model, where the module and the sides of the product share the same golden color.
The edges are made in a silver metal frame (on our model), which also tends to mark on fingerprints. On the right, we find the volume and power buttons (or Bixby), and on the lower edge, we have the cover for the dual SIM port, a USB Type-C port and a speaker. Without surprise, the Jack port is still missing of the smartphone.
However, it should be noted that AKG USB Type-C headphones are supplied in the box of the S21 +. While they’re not amazing, they still fulfill their contract by delivering decent sound.
As on previous models, the fingerprint sensor is once again placed under the screen. It has been discreetly improved, being 70% larger than that of the S20. In use, this translates into more comfort. This sensor is more permissive as to the placement of your finger. Coupled with facial recognition always very sharp, you will never know any hitch to unlock it.
We could still blame the S21 + for its lack of imagination in terms of its screen part. If the latter covers almost the entire front of the smartphone (very high ratio at 89%), there are still visible black edges. This is the consequence of Samsung’s choice to opt for a completely flat slab. A bit of a shame, since curvatures on the side eliminate these edges in addition to giving the smartphone a more airy appearance. The S21 Ultra, on the other hand, is well equipped with a screen that is slightly curved at the sides. For the rest, we can point out the presence of the eternal punch for the selfie sensor (10 Mp) enthroned at the top of the slab.
Samsung signs a smartphone here very successful in terms of design. We can even venture to say that this is his best product yet. In addition to that, it is very pleasant in the hand and it is a real pleasure to handle it. The Galaxy S21 + has the quality of being recognized at first glance thanks to strong visual features, such as the photo module or its chic colors.
An almost perfect screen
Samsung has always been very good when it comes to displays, and this Galaxy S21 + is no exception. It is equipped with a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED panel (20: 9 ratio) with a definition of 2400 X 1080 pixels. A small step back from the S20 +, which offered a maximum definition in 1440p (in 60Hz). However, the S21 + brings a novelty introduced with the Note 20 Ultra: the adaptive refresh rate at 120Hz. This allows for greater visual comfort, while saving battery in cases where this high rate is not necessary. If you wish, you can always opt for a refresh rate of 60Hz to grab some battery life. In the options, Samsung gives the user the choice between two profiles. Vivid, which is set by default, and natural, which must respect the colors.
We analyzed the S21 + panel using our probe. Without surprise, the results are excellent. Let’s start with the vivid mode. Super AMOLED panel requires, the terminal offers an infinite contrast ratio. The blacks are deep and the whites are brilliant. The maximum brightness is around 600 cd / m², which allows perfect readability, even in direct sunlight. The color temperature was measured at 6980K, which is higher than the 6500K of the video standard. In fact, this means that on a blank page, the screen is slightly bluish, but this is still very acceptable. In addition, it is possible to adjust this temperature in the parameters.
The S21 + ‘s vivid mode intentionally saturates certain colors to make them more “lively” and therefore more flattering to the retina. The average Delta E was measured by us at 3.9 (below 3 being synonymous with great respect for colors). Most of the colors displayed are respectful of the original ones, but this is not the case for the reds, greens, blues and yellows which lean towards neon. This gives a more “wow” side on screen and it’s great for watching movies, YouTube, or even playing video games.
The natural mode, which can be activated in the options, takes this aspect against the grain with extremely respectful colors of the original ones (Delta E at 1.1). To the naked eye, this makes for a duller screen in comparison, but much more fair to admire its photos. For example, shots with greenery will be less aggressive and closer to what you have in front of you. Apart from this aspect, this natural mode offers a perfect calibration of the screen, with a temperature of 6590K. A white screen therefore pulls neither towards red nor towards blue. The contrast is also infinite, OLED requires. Only the brightness leaves something to be desired, hovering around 500 cd / m², which is good for a smartphone, but less so than in the other mode.
Also read – Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: this time it’s the right one!
Note that the S21 and S21 Ultra logically gave us the same results for their screen (except for the brightness). They offer the best tiles on the market, simply. Samsung shows its expertise in this segment and impresses, both in numbers and with the naked eye. A total success.
The sound part is unfortunately not as good. The audio is actually good, although there is some distortion at high volumes. Here, it is the use that is the problem. The main speaker is located on the lower edge, which means that when watching video, your palm will crush it and muffle the sound. It’s not the second speaker, located below the screen, that will save the furniture. This is certainly not a fatal flaw, but it is still a bit of a shame.
A high performance processor
The Galaxy S21 +, like the other two models, is equipped with a Samsung Exynos 2100 processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 in the United States and Korea). The Exynos 990 had been singled out for its cheap performance and Samsung had promised to correct the situation with this new model. It is here supported by 8 GB of RAM. Note also that this processor is compatible with 5G networks, which is always a plus at a time when this technology is gradually democratizing.
During our benchmarking session, the Exynos 2100 proved its worth by offering very convincing results. In terms of pure power, we are therefore on one of the best smartphones on the market, while waiting for the first terminals with the Snapdragon 888. However, it does not offer an extraordinary gain compared to the Snapdragon 865+, being for example neck and neck with the ROG Phone 3, which was the best product of 2020 in this segment.
In fact, the user will be able to do everything on his S21 +, such as launching all the big games of the moment without any slowdown and with graphics to the max. We think of titles like Asphalt or Geshin Impact. Likewise, no saccade was observed with use.
During our gaming and bench sessions, the processor was logically put to the test and heated up. If heat is present (a little over 40 degrees), we note that it is well distributed over the entire length of the chassis thanks to the hardened glass. Nothing to report notable on that side.
An always pleasant overlay
The Galaxy S21 + comes with Android 11. While it doesn’t offer a revolution over Android 10, it does add a few neat little things like improved notifications or a better managed night mode. Samsung has included its One UI 3.1 overlay, which is very pleasant to use.
She brings some small nice features, like the side panel, that we already knew. It allows you to place shortcuts for quick access to previously chosen applications, or to display the weather forecast or reminders. Ultra customizable, this is a always useful addition that can be turned off. Samsung is tightening up its usual features in its overlay, such as an Always-On Display mode that does not consume much energy this time, customizable themes or even a Samsung Daily pane, which allows us to have a news feed on the most to the left.
For the rest, we are in the classic, with proprietary applications that you have the choice to use or not. We also note the presence of preinstalled software such as Facebook or Spotify. Bixby is still there and activated via the power key, but it is quite possible completely disable Samsung Assistant. It is true that it has not been very helpful so far. A controlled software part that does not drastically change the Android Stock experience. It adds some cool little features that don’t weigh down the navigation.
A very controlled photo part
If the S21 + does not have the small onion photo module of the S21 Ultra, it still has arguments to be made. It has three sensors. We have a 12-megapixel wide-angle sensor (f / 1.8), a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor (f / 2.2) and a 64-megapixel Telefoto sensor (f / 2.0). On this point, it is similar to the S20 +, but it is the software part that has been improved.
In fact, we have a great camera. By day and in wide shot, the shots taken by the S21 + are very good. We note good management of lights as well as colors:
The erratic focus was one of the weak points of the S20s and this concern is corrected with this iteration, although not everything is perfect for macro shots yet.
In contrast, things get better in a wider shot, and shots of moving subjects are crisp most of the time. An ideal sensor for taking pictures of animals, for example. Even the photos in low light are precise and bright, a small feat that comes as no surprise from Samsung, which has always been good at it.
Samsung promised improved night mode and the promise is kept. Even in the virtual absence of light, the images captured are readable and very correct, as long as the exposure time of several seconds is respected. Here, it’s the AI that works wonders by improving the photo after the fact.
This S21 + offers an X30 digital zoom. If the pictures taken with it prove to be unusable, the AI still works miracles by making them readable. Note that the optical zoom is limited to X1.1, the software taking care of the rest.
In addition, the Korean brand now includes an option called smart lock in this mode. By zooming in, it is possible to lock in the place you want to take. This will make the camera ignore your shaking. While it has limits, of course (the lock is lost when you move a little too much), it’s still a nice option.
Regarding video, Samsung offers to shoot in 8K at 24 frames per second. Other definitions are of course available and it is quite possible to shoot UHD video at 60 frames per second. Samsung has also included a new feature: director mode. It’s all about filming with both the rear camera and the selfie sensor (10 megapixel). The result is a video in which you see your face in a thumbnail, or at the bottom of the display depending on the settings you choose. An ideal mode for reaction videos. Note that it is possible to change the focal length without cutting the flow.
All in all, the S21 + offers a great camera. If it is not at the level of the Rolls of the market, namely the Huawei Mate 40, it has arguments to make and will be able to satisfy the greatest number. The most demanding will turn to the S21 Ultra, a cut above.
Autonomy, minimum service
Battery life was the weak point of the Galaxy S20 line. For example, it was complicated to last a whole day with the S20 + without recharging it. We were therefore waiting for the S21 + at the turn. The Exynos 2100, which uses less energy, is paired with a 4800 mAh battery. So in theory it should be better. During our week of testing, the S21 + did not show incredible battery life, but it is already doing better than its predecessor. With a refresh rate set at 120 Hz, we ended the day between 10 and 20% battery. It’s a bit tight. By setting the screen to 60 Hz, we gained 10% over the same period of use.
In its settings, Samsung offers a flexible energy saving mode. For example, you can choose to limit the processor capacity to 70%, lower the brightness, or even turn off Always On Display. By checking all the boxes, we gain drastically in autonomy, ending the day around 40%. In fact, the S21 + does not work miracles. However, it allows you to last a whole day in the best conditions, which its predecessor was not able to do. The minimum service. We would have liked a little better, especially since the S21 Ultra is really an example to follow in this segment. It will be necessary to be satisfied with it.
The Galaxy S21 + is compatible with fast charging of 25 Watts, which is a bit winky when you see the competition, like OnePlus, offering much more powerful recharges. To take advantage of it, you will need to get a compatible charger if you don’t have one. Indeed, the S21 + is delivered without (only a USB Type-C to USB Type-C wire is provided in the box). Don’t panic, a “classic” model will do the trick, but the charging time will just be extended. In our testing, we charged the S21 + from 2% to 100% using a 25 Watt charger. It took us an hour and 16 minutes to completely power up the phone. It’s a bit long, especially for a flagship which wants to offer the best, but which is in line with the power indicated.