Samsung Galaxy S21+ review: Does the S21+ tick the boxes that matter at this price point?
Even months after it was first shown off to the world, the S21 Ultra remains among my favorite Android flagships to use, but for many, Samsung’s best is possibly too “ultra”, both in terms of form factor and the hit on the wallet. The Galaxy S21+ then presents itself as the more mainstream, big-screen alternative to the Ultra, but with the somewhat-lower-yet-still-
Picking up the S21+ feels like a familiar affair – it shares the front and rear Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection and the fully-embraced camera bump with the Ultra. It’s well-appointed and is quite the looker in its two-tone rear panel finish, available in Phantom Violet, Phantom Black, and Phantom Silver colorways. All the good stuff, including the premium finish and the IP68 dust/water resistance that you’ve come to expect from a Samsung flagship are all there, but make no mistake about it, this is a sizeable phone and requires some hand calisthenics to use on the daily. As with the Ultra, it’s important to note that the microSD card slot has been dropped from the S21+, so I’d recommend spending the additional four grand and pick up the higher storage variant.
Where it differs from the Ultra is the choice of a completely flat display on the front, a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED panel that refreshes at 120Hz but caps out at a full-HD+ resolution (unlike the quad-HD+ on the Ultra) – bit of a pity really, for a phone that costs this much. The display itself is a typical Samsung display, bright and punchy and HDR10+ certified for HDR content on streaming services, and the refresh rate is still adaptive, which means it can alter the refresh rate to as low as 48Hz depending on the content to conserve battery life. Haptics are excellent, as is the ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, but the display doesn’t have S-Pen support, a feature which is exclusive to the Ultra variant.
Performance matched the S21 Ultra, no surprises given the same Exynos 2100 5G-enabled chip powers all three models in the S21 lineup. Call of Duty Mobile ran at very High settings for frame rates and graphics, and it was only after a half an hour session did the back run a bit warm. Minor nuance to note, you get fast UFS 3.0 storage which means apps load quickly, but the Ultra packs in a slightly faster UFS 3.1 storage. The S21+ with its sizeable 4,800mAh battery lasts past a full day on a single charge, courtesy the optimized software and lower FHD+ resolution, but as with the Ultra, the 25W cap on fast charging is an odd decision in this price category that regularly sees faster charging speeds. Software is a sorted affair, with OneUI v3.0 seeing frequent security updates, and with the brand’s commitment to deliver three major Android OS and a minimum 4 years of security updates, Samsung is leading the march for Android OEMs, even ahead of Google.
Finally, the cameras. The triple camera setup, with a 12MP ultra-wide-angle, 12MP primary and 64MP telephoto may miss out on the insane 100X Space Zoom from the Ultra, but the 30X Space Zoom works well for most scenarios.
Camera performance left little to fault – focusing was quick, exposure was spot on and daylight shots were exceptional in terms of dynamic range and detail. Even the ultra-wide managed to rein in distortion and turn out pretty good (if a little soft) images.
Low light performance is good, but not great, which is where the Ultra and the iPhone 12 edge a bit ahead. Bear in mind that this is the same camera setup as the S21 so you could switch down and not lose out on camera chops.
Here’s the lowdown about the S21+ - it’s a good, well rounded, premium phone, but it’s easily overshadowed in every dimension by the pricier S21 Ultra, making for a difficult recommendation at its current price point. Either pick up the Ultra, or save yourself some cash and pick up the regular – it matches the S21+ in every department except the slight departure in design elements.
Highlights: Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
Pros: Striking design, good performance, good cameras, decent battery life, 5G ready
Cons: Lacks a 2K display, no expandable storage, expensive, no charger in box, only 25W fast charging
Price: Rs. 76,999 for 8GB/128GB, Rs. 80,999 for 8GB/256GB