Galaxy S21 in the test – great smartphone with annoying savings

With the Galaxy S21, Samsung focuses on the camera. This is evident not only in the design of the new smartphone, but also in its features. However, users do not expect a revolution in mobile phone photography, as the test shows.

At first glance, the enthusiasm when unpacking the Galaxy S21 is limited. This is not the fault of the smartphone, but rather the fact that essential accessories are missing. The manufacturer no longer supplies a charger or headphones. As a result, the box of the Galaxy S21 is significantly flatter than previous models. In return, the devices of the new generation are a little cheaper. But how does the Samsung Galaxy S21 fare in the test? Do you have to compromise here as with accessories? Or has Samsung increased the performance to match a new top smartphone?

Samsung Galaxy S21 in the test – the external impression

Unpacked and picked up for the first time, the Galaxy S21 knows how to inspire. The back is made of plastic, but its surface is velvety matt and feels very comfortable. The smartphone does not look cheap due to the lack of glass. Rather, the plastic has two decisive advantages: It makes the Samsung Galaxy S21 lighter than comparable models, which makes it easy to use over a longer period of time. In addition, plastic is more resistant than glass and does not break immediately if you drop the smartphone.

The processing is on the upper level. Almost all components merge seamlessly and neatly. You have to, after all, the Samsung Galaxy S21 offers protection against water and dust according to IP68. There is only a narrow gap around the display, which is caused by the rounded shape of the display frame. We noticed it in the test of the Galaxy S21 especially on the narrow lower edge, since we touched it more often when holding it.

The back of the Samsung Galaxy S21 is made of plastic, but feels comfortable

Missing connections and new camera design

The device’s buttons are on the left edge of the case, while all connections are on the lower, narrow side. In addition to one of the two speakers, there is also the USB-C port, via which headphones must be connected, and the slot for the two SIM cards. The Galaxy S21 does not have a memory card slot. Samsung has made savings here as well as on the accessories mentioned. It’s a shame, because these points result in deductions in the test that affect the overall grade.

Most noticeable about the new design of the Galaxy S21 series is the camera. Here Samsung has opted for a new type of bezel that now runs around the side of the frame. Overall, the camera looks better integrated into the housing, as it is no longer so separate on the back. The camera bezel is made of metal and looks correspondingly robust. However, it is still quite thick – it protrudes about one and a half millimeters from the surface. This was noticeable in the test of the Galaxy S21 when we put the smartphone on the table. Since it does not lie flat on the upper left corner, it wobbles with every touch – ugly.

Partial rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A display that is fun

The Galaxy S21 was pleasantly compact in the test, although it has a 6.2-inch display that is sufficiently large. It measures just 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 millimeters and weighs around 169 grams, making the Galaxy S21 a good choice for those interested in buying who want a rather small smartphone. What we also found very pleasant was the flat surface of the screen. In contrast to many other top models, Samsung does not use a curved screen in its standard model in the new range. This can easily lead to reflections or incorrect entries, a problem that we didn’t have to deal with in the test of the Galaxy S21.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 in the test – with Android 11 and compact design

As usual, Samsung delivers good results in terms of display technology. The Galaxy S21 is equipped with a Dynamic AMOLED 2x, which is not only very bright with a maximum of 1300 nits. It also impresses with its strong but natural colors and high contrasts. Gamers, but also normal users, benefit from the adaptive refresh rate, which automatically regulates between 48 Hz and 120 Hz. The display only clocks up to maximum performance when required and otherwise runs in standard mode, which is significantly more energy-efficient. The predecessor, the Galaxy S20, already has the same feature.

Fewer pixels, but they are hardly noticeable

When we introduced the smartphone, we were surprised that Samsung reduced the resolution compared to the S20. Instead of 3200 x 1440 pixels (Quad-HD +), the new model only displays 2400 x 1080 pixels, i.e. Full-HD +. In the test of the Galaxy S21 we hardly noticed this difference. Even with the Full HD + resolution, the display is sharp and rich in contrast. And due to its smaller display diagonal, the S21 at least achieves a good pixel density of 421 ppi (pixels per inch – pixels per centimeter).

In the settings, Samsung offers a few options for customizing the display, which we really liked in the test of the Galaxy S21. Most of the points are preset to “adaptive” so that, for example, the brightness, the color warmth of the display or the mentioned refresh rate can be regulated automatically. If you don’t want that, you can set your preferences in the settings. The font size, the general color view or the touch sensitivity of the screen can also be changed there if desired.

Partial rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S21 – which of the 3 new models do I need?

Technical features of the Galaxy S21

Samsung’s current Galaxy S generation is powered in the international version by the Exynos 2100 chip, which is divided into three clusters. The prime core achieves 2.9 GHz at its peak and is therefore responsible for the performance boost for particularly high demands. In addition, the Exynos 2100 offers three Cortex-A78 cores with a maximum clock of 2.8 GHz and four energy-saving Cortex-A55 cores with up to 2.2 GHz. The graphics are provided by the Mali-G78 MP14, which promises a performance increase of around 40 percent compared to the Mali-G77 MP11 used in the Exynos 990.

Overall, the Exynos 2100 offers a fast and jerk-free performance that even gamers with higher demands will get their money’s worth. The new chip is manufactured using the modern 5-nanometer process and consumes less electricity than previous SoCs (System on Chip). In addition, it is 5G-capable – Samsung no longer offers a pure LTE version as in previous generations.

Samsung is canceling memory card slot

The processor in the Galaxy S21 is accompanied by either 128 or 256 gigabytes (GB) of energy-saving UFS 3.1 storage and 8 GB of RAM. In the test of the Galaxy S21, the smartphone got an AnTuTu score of 628,000, which shows that the chip plays in the upper performance field. However, there are also points deducted – namely due to the missing memory card slot. The internal memory of the Galaxy S21 cannot be expanded with a micro SD card, which is annoying. When choosing the model, buyers should keep this in mind, because they have to make do with the 128 GB or 256 GB they have chosen.

In addition to 5G, owners of the Galaxy S21 can also use the new WLAN standard Wifi 6 (11ax). It enables faster data transfers of up to 4800 Mbit / s at the top and more stable connections even with multiple devices in the network. Wifi 6 is backwards compatible.

Equipment at a glance

Samsung Galaxy S21
Display 6.2 inches, Infinity-O,
Dynamic AMOLED 2x,
up to 120 Hz, max. 1300 nits
resolution FHD + (2400 x 1080 pixels), 421 ppi
processor Samsung Exynos 2100,
5 nm, Octa-Core (1x 2.9 + 3x 2.8 + 4x 2.2 GHz)
Storage 8 GB + 128 GB
8 GB + 256 GB
Main camera Triple camera:
12 megapixels (ultra wide angle), 1 / 2.55 “, f / 2.2
12 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 1.76″, f / 1.8
64 megapixels (telephoto), 1 / 1.72 “, f / 2.0

30- space zoom
8K video (16: 9 format, 24 fps)

Front camera 10 megapixels (wide angle), 1 / 3.24 “, f / 2.2
battery pack 4000 mAh,
Quick Charge 3.0 with 25 watts, wireless charging, wireless power share
software Android 11,
Samsung One UI 3.1
security Face recognition, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
links Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Internet WLAN a / b / g / n / ac / ax, HE80, LTE, 5G
miscellaneous IP68, stereo speakers: Sound by AKG, dual SIM
measurements and weight 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm,
approx. 169 g
Colours Phantom Gray, Phantom White, Phantom Pink, Phantom Violet
RRP 128 GB: 849 euros
256 GB: 899 euros


Partial rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Android 11 ex works

The Galaxy S21 already ships with Android 11. In addition, at the time of the test at the beginning of February, there is the security patch from January – exemplary! This means that Google’s current operating system version is running on the device. The One UI version 3.1, based on Android 11, is clearly structured so that even newbies should be able to use the menu well. In the test of the Galaxy S21, we liked the fact that the surface can be individually adapted with freely selectable themes – a feature that we already know from earlier models. The new functions such as the choice between Google Discover and Samsung Free as a news aggregator are also well received.

Sometimes, however, the individual settings are not to be found where we would have expected them. The side panels, which give quick access to the most frequently used apps, can be customized under the “Display” tab, for example. We would have expected it more in the service category. It’s good that there is a search function that makes it easier to find certain items in the menu.

Frequently used apps can be opened quickly via the side panels

If you want to protect your smartphone from being accessed by strangers, you have various options. The fingerprint sensor that Samsung placed under the display is certainly best. With it, we were able to unlock the Galaxy S21 quickly and reliably in the test. Samsung also offers face unlocking and PIN unlocking.

Partial rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Galaxy S21 camera tested

The triple cameras of the Galaxy S21 have hardly changed compared to the predecessor. The equipment is also identical to that of the Galaxy S21 +. There is a 12-megapixel wide-angle with a very bright f / 1.8 aperture, an ultra-wide-angle with 12 megapixels, but f / 2.2 aperture, and a telephoto lens with 64 megapixels. The latter enables a three-fold hybrid zoom and up to 30-fold magnification.

The new camera design that runs around the edge  s21

Good camera results, but disappointment with the zoom

However, we found in the test of the Galaxy S21 that there is more marketing in the information about the telephoto zoom than we would like. The smartphone does not offer a real triple optical zoom. Rather, the loss-free magnification is only 1.1x. At higher magnifications, the picture becomes increasingly blurred. This is still acceptable with a magnification of up to 10x, the image details are reasonable. With a higher zoom of up to 30x magnification, however, the images are hardly usable. Details are lost, colors look washed out and the image stabilization is not sufficient to avoid blurring. A tripod is therefore essential here.

Tip: To enlarge the included sample photos, click on the respective image.

Apart from these details in the zoom, the results of the camera in the test of the Galaxy S21 surprised us positively. The camera not only focuses quickly, it also releases in no time. Added to this is the ease of use of the camera app and its overall clear structure. The most important settings are shown to users at a glance and are usually just a few clicks away. On our photo tour on a rainy February day, the world looks a bit gloomy and pale overall. We were able to capture the mood well with both the wide-angle and the ultra-wide-angle of the Galaxy S21. The representation of the colors is convincing and the exposure of the pictures is good. The camera captures details and displays structures superbly, there was hardly any image noise.

Night shots and videos

Even with night shots, there was hardly any image noise. This is partly due to the optimized night mode that Samsung has integrated. Even in the dark, details can still be easily recognized and structures can be distinguished from one another. It is noticeable that even a strong light source in the immediate vicinity – for example a street lamp – does not negatively influence the lighting too much.

The Galaxy S21 films videos in a maximum of 8K resolution (7680 x 4280 pixels). The image stabilization is quite successful and can also handle very dynamic scenes and wobbles. Thanks to the high resolution and the image stabilization, sharp still images from videos are also possible.

Also read: The 12 best smartphones under 200 euros

Lots of options in the camera app

As already mentioned, we noticed the clear structure of the camera app in the test of the Samsung Galaxy S21. Those who familiarize themselves with the application a little will be rewarded with a number of setting options that users often have to download separately from other manufacturers.

In addition to an expanded Pro mode, we also found the further development of Samsung’s “Single Shot” in the test of the Galaxy S21. A scene can be recorded with all cameras at the same time. Then you get a still image, video and slightly different perspectives – great for capturing a moment in depth. The “Director’s View” allows a simultaneous view through all cameras, the desired camera sensor can be selected with a fingertip and, for the first time, changed during the recording. If you like, you can also fade into the video yourself and thus record your own reaction to an event. The new function for this is called “Vlogger View”.

A look at the camera app of the Samsung Galaxy S21

Partial rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Galaxy S21 battery tested

The Galaxy S21 has a battery with 4000 mAh. That sounds like a rather average capacity at first. However, if we factor in the rather energy-saving processor, the 6.2-inch display and the adaptive adjustment of some displays, the result is a solid runtime. In the test, we had the Galaxy S21 in our hands more often than a private smartphone for over a day. We also put a lot of strain on the camera. Nevertheless, we got through the day well on one battery charge – and even had reserves. With heavy use, we assume a good one and a half days of operation before the Galaxy S21 runs out of power. If you use your smartphone less, you should even manage almost two working days on one battery charge. In sleep mode overnight (approx.

At the point of recharging, however, opinions differ. On the one hand, the Samsung Galaxy S21 offers all modern options: Quick Charge 3.0 with up to 25 watts, wireless charging and even wireless power share (can charge the battery of other devices wirelessly). On the other hand, the necessary power supply and cables are missing. If users do not have a compatible power supply at home, they cannot charge using Quick Charge. The result: additional costs for an already expensive purchase. This point reduces the otherwise good result in the battery test.

Partial rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Price comparison

Where we are at expensive – with an MSRP of 849 euros for the version with 128 GB memory and 899 euros for the 256 GB version, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is in the upper price segment. Such a sum is now normal for a top smartphone. However, Samsung advertises its new models with a reduction in price compared to their predecessors. For example, the 5G version of the Galaxy S20 initially cost 999 euros – 150 euros more than the S21. The reduced MSRP makes a difference, but we also have to consider that we don’t get a charging cable, a power supply, headphones or other adapters for it. In addition, the memory expansion is missing. For the price there is “only” the Samsung Galaxy S21 itself.

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S21 can not really inspire in the test

Galaxy S21 in the test: conclusion

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S21 made a good impression on us in the test. Compared to the predecessor, there are some annoyances, such as the lack of accessories, the lack of memory expansion, the lower display resolution and the almost unchanged camera hardware. Samsung has given away potential here.

Nevertheless, the manufacturer has succeeded in producing a well-rounded overall package. The display is convincing despite the lower resolution, the performance leaves little to be desired, even for the discerning, there is 5G and Wifi 6 and also a very nice, compact and, above all, less vulnerable housing. If you want to buy a Samsung smartphone, you can reach for the Galaxy S21 with a clear conscience – price and performance are right here. However, we do not recommend switching from the Galaxy S20 to the S21. The innovations are too small for that.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars / 80 percent

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