The Samsung Galaxy S21 will appear in the Netherlands on January 29 and introduces the necessary improvements. Android Planet has already been able to try the new flagship and in this preview you can read our first findings. What innovations has Samsung introduced this year?
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Check out the Samsung Galaxy S21 preview
Samsung is there early this year. Normally, the company announces its latest Galaxy S smartphones in February or March, but this time we can get started with the latest flagship in January. The Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra will be in stores on January 29 and are the main high-end smartphones from the manufacturer this year.
Samsung opts for the name ‘S21’ and although that of course fits well with the year 2021, it also shows that the Galaxy S21 are not groundbreaking devices. In fact, Samsung has taken the (very strong) basis of the Galaxy S20 and further improved it. Nevertheless, significant changes have certainly been made.
Shortly before the announcement of the new smartphones Android Planet try them out and have a look at the new design and features. In this preview you can read our first findings, we will publish the full review in the coming weeks.
Direct successors to S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra
Samsung is coming this year with direct successors to the S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, unlike last year – when the S10e was ‘replaced’ with the normal S20. The Galaxy S21 devices are slightly cheaper than their predecessors. For the ‘entry-level model’, the regular Galaxy S21, you pay 849 euros. That is 50 euros less than with the 4G version of the S20. The 5G variant was even 150 euros more expensive.
The Galaxy S21 Plus costs 1049 euros, making it 50 euros cheaper than its predecessor. The S21 Ultra, which offers the best of the best and is thus the ultimate flagship, costs 1,249 euros and is 100 euros cheaper than its predecessor.
The devices also look a lot like their predecessors and have, for example, the same size screen. The Galaxy S21 is again 6.2 inches, the Galaxy S21 Plus screen measures 6.7 inches and only the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a fraction smaller at 6.8 inches than last year’s S20 Ultra (6.9 inches) . However, you will not notice this in practice.
If you look at the front of the Galaxy S21 phones, they look almost the same as their predecessors. The screen fills the entire front, the edges are nice and thin and at the top there is a small hole for the selfie camera. They are hefty phones, especially the Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra. You cannot operate it with one hand and you really have to hold it with two hands. This is slightly easier with the S21 because the housing is more compact and lighter.
The screens of the Galaxy S21 phones are now flat with no rounded edges. Only with the S21 Ultra you can still see and feel this a little bit. In my opinion, this is an improvement, because the rounded edges (although they look nice) do not add anything functionally. The flat screen also prevents you from accidentally touching the touchscreen and activating something.
We also see changes on the back. The camera island, where all lenses and sensors are incorporated, now continues from the side into the housing and is therefore more subtly concealed. This looks nice and gives the Galaxy S21 a distinctive look. I especially think the purple version with a gold camera island looks very nice. The camera island does not protrude enormously from the housing, but with the more expensive S21 Ultra it is a bit more.
Plastic housing and lower resolution
To get to the lower prices, Samsung has made some changes. First of all, the back of the normal Galaxy S21 is no longer made of glass, but plastic. This may sound like a disappointment, but it is not as bad as it seems. The back of the Galaxy S21 feels luxurious and like glass, which is great.
During my preview I did not even notice at first that I was holding a plastic device. The finish is therefore high-quality and certainly not cheap. The more expensive Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus do have a fully glass housing and do not differ from their predecessors in this area.
Another ‘downgrade’ has to do with the screen resolution. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus have a full HD resolution of 2400 by 1080 pixels, instead of the QHD resolution (3200 by 1440 pixels) that we saw with the S20 (Plus). That also sounds worse than it actually is. In fact, the Galaxy S20 defaulted to full HD resolution and not QHD, and I wonder how many people actually see the difference. I don’t think the difference is huge and can live with it just fine.
The screens of the Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra (still QHD) again look excellent, just as we are used to from Samsung. Colors splash from the screen, the brightness can be very high and black is really black. Also nice: the phones again have a 120Hz refresh rate for very smooth animations. This is a very nice feature that makes the S21 telephones feel super fast.
Faster processor, 5G and more
The Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra naturally contain the fastest mobile hardware at the moment. The smartphones are powered by the new Exynos 2100 processor, which is a bit more powerful than the Exynos 990 of the S20 line.
Also present is 8GB of RAM and 128 / 256GB of storage space with the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus. The S21 Ultra is slightly more powerful and has a whopping 12GB RAM and 128/256 / 512GB storage, depending on which version you choose. During my hands-onsession, the devices felt nice and fast and I did not see any hiccups.
The fingerprint scanner, which is again under the screen, has been improved and, according to Samsung, 1.7x larger. This should ensure that it is faster and more accurate, although I have not yet been able to test this properly. The batteries, of 4000, 4800 and 5000 mAh respectively, should last longer thanks to smart software, although I can only say more about this after an extensive test period.
It is important to know that all Samsung Galaxy S21 models have 5G as standard and can therefore handle the new mobile network. You are not going to reap the full benefits of this yet, because the current speed gain of 5G is limited. The smartphones are therefore future-proof and that is nice.
Cameras have been further improved
An important part of the Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphones are the cameras. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus have the same camera set-up like the S20 and S20 Plus. It is therefore a 12 megapixel main camera, 12 megapixel wide-angle lens and 64 megapixel telephoto lens. You use the latter to zoom in without loss of quality and offers 3x optical zoom.
Space Zoom, a feature introduced with the Galaxy S20, allows the S21 and S21 Plus to digitally zoom up to 30x, with software to keep images looking sharp. Samsung says that Space Zoom has been improved so that zoomed photos have less noise, but we have not been able to test this properly, as well as the general camera performance. We will come back to this in detail in our review, although Space Zoom was quite a lot with the S20 gimmick.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra does something new and has two zoom lenses on the back, both of 10 megapixels. One offers 3x optical zoom and the other even goes up to 10x. The device checks for each situation how far the subject is from you and then chooses the most suitable zoom lens. In the camera app of the S21 Ultra, you can easily switch between 3x and 10x zoom.
The 10x optical zoom is a big improvement over the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which could ‘only’ zoom in up to 4x optically. During my preview I was not able to test the zoom function and you can read a final judgment about the photo quality in the review. I am also curious how well the devices perform in the dark, especially since Samsung says that the night mode has been improved and should provide better pictures.
Conclusion Samsung Galaxy S21 preview
The Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra are not completely different smartphones from their predecessors, but that’s okay at all. Despite the fact that the phones take a step back on some points, they make a very good first impression. The design is beautiful, especially how Samsung allows the camera island to extend from the side. Many users will also like that the screen is flat and again supports 120Hz.
We cannot say much about other (promised) improvements, such as the faster processor, renewed cameras and longer battery life: we need to test the smartphones more extensively for that. Keep an eye on the reviews, which will appear on Android Planet in the coming weeks.
It is nice that the Samsung flagships have become slightly cheaper, although I wonder whether the price drop is enough. The entry-level model, on the other hand, has become a lot cheaper. The Galaxy S20, S20 Plus or S20 Ultra are now also a lot more affordable, offer an experience that is not very different from that of the Galaxy S21, and are therefore very attractive.
Samsung Galaxy S21 release and price
The Samsung Galaxy S21 is from January 29 available for 849 euros and you can order now. The Galaxy S21 Plus has a suggested retail price of 1049 euros, while you go for the Galaxy S21 Ultra 1249 euros pays. There are also versions available with more storage space, for which you have to spend 50 euros extra.
If you order a Galaxy S21 device now, you will receive a set of Galaxy Buds earbuds and the Smart Tag for free. The normal S21 and S21 Plus are the Galaxy Buds Live, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a set of Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds.