Samsung Galaxy J-series was instantly killed off after the growing popularity of its affordable price-to-feature promising M-series came into play. The Galaxy M21 2021 Edition is a refreshed version of last year’s Galaxy M21 and offers a large display, an excellent battery life, and a competitive price tag although almost 99% of its specifications remain untouched compared to the 2020 version so let’s see how different the new version is. It all boils down to its actual performance.
I got my hands on Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition for a hands-on review that should uncover mysteriously and answer questions potential customers might have.
Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition is available in two colour variants i.e. Arctic Blue and Charcoal Black. Its 4GB+64GB variant is up for sale at Rs 12,499/- while the topmost 6GB+128GB variant fetches a price tag of Rs 14,999/-. Available via Amazon India and Samsung India online store, you can avail several deals with the device. Amazon offers an exchange offer discounting up to Rs 13,400/- on eligible exchanges. Similarly, there are multiple No Cost and Low-cost EMIs, instant discounts of up to Rs 1,000/- on ICICI Bank CC and CC/DC EMI among others.
Before we talk in detail about the Galaxy M21 2021 let’s see what the on-paper specs look like?
- Display: 16.21 centimetres (6.4-inch) Super AMOLED
- Processor: Exynos 9611
- Storage: 4GB/64GB, 6GB/128GB
- Software: OneUI 3.1 based on Android 11
- Rear cameras: 48MP+8MP+5MP
- Front camera: 20MP
- Battery: 6000 mAh
- Weight: 192g
- Dimensions: 159 x 75.1 x 9 mm
Speaking about the design, the new Galaxy M21 2021 Edition is slightly different especially if you look at the back panel of the phone. First up, the display is huge and there’s no denying it and I will talk about the display tech in the next section. There’s a U-shaped notch that Samsung calls Infinity-U. The chin is chunky although the bezels are of considerable size which goes in line with the price tag.
The back panel sees the biggest differences between the 2020 and 2021 editions. Unlike last year’s glossy back panel, this year’s M21 2021 has a textured back panel. A hoard of lines run through the back panel diagonally and this gives you an enhanced grip on the phone. Also, it wards off any smudges and fingerprints sticking on the panel.
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Samsung is using a plastic frame and back panel that looks slightly cheaper but it is way more durable than a glass back. Plus, the back panel is curved, which improves grip as well. The triple rear camera module appears flush with the back panel and there’s no rectangular camera bump around. There’s an oval-shaped fingerprint scanner with its placement too high on the back panel that you would certainly have to stretch your fingers to unlock the phone for sure.
There’s a mic, a bottom-firing loudspeaker, a USB Type-C port right at the centre, and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom. The power button is nearby on the right, however, the volume rocker is way too high so you might’ve problems reaching it if you have small hands. There’s a secondary mic on top and a SIM card slot on the left. That’s all about the button and port placement found on M21 2021 Edition which isn’t much different from last year’s M21.
There’s no difference between Galaxy M21 and M21 2021 when you look at the display. Samsung Galaxy M21 Edition display is a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED FHD+ panel with 1080 by 2340 pixels resolution. It has a regular 60Hz refresh rate with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Finally, it is an Infinity-U display.
Samsung has been using AMOLED panels on its budget-range smartphone and that’s a good thing. This is because it is way better than LCD panels although it is inferior to midrange and flagship AMOLED panels so keep that in check.
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Viewing angles, contrast, and overall brightness on Galaxy M21 2021 Edition are up to the mark and I had no issues with it considering the pocket-friendly price tag. The display ain’t that bright compared to superior AMOLED panels so take a note of it. Viewing the screen indoors and outdoors won’t be an issue unless you are using the phone in broad sunlight. Furthermore, the display is a reflection so that could add to the overall faded display against harsh sunlight.
The device supports HD video streaming on OTT platforms thanks to the L1 DRM certification that allows users to stream HD movies/videos on Amazon Prime and Netflix among others. To be honest, an absent HD streaming on an AMOLED panel would have spoiled the fun out of the majestic panel that promises deeper blacks and brighter whites.
There’s an Always ON mode on-board Galaxy M21 2021 Edition so you can enjoy it and I am impressed. Finally, the display is huge and the bezels are apt as per the price segment. You will still end up having a great time viewing and interacting with the display.
The chipset under the hood Gaalxy M21 2021 is an Exynos 9611 SoC that uses a dual-cluster arrangement maxing at 2.3GHz frequency. It is paired alongside Mali-G72 MP3 graphics units. You get access to a 64/128GB storage system while the RAM options are 6/8GB. That’s all about the specifications, here’s how the phone performs when tested with real-world cases.
Have you heard of Exynos 9611? Well, if you follow Samsung Galaxy smartphones, you are likely familiar with the chipset which is available on Galaxy A51, Galaxy M21, M30s, M31, and a few others. It is one of the most used chipsets out there and produces decent performances for any category of apps and processes you run.
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Multitasking on Galaxy M21 2021 Edition was surprisingly fun as I didn’t have much issue except for a bit of delay in loading apps, everything henceforth works like bliss. In fact, I spent my day on social media apps, WhatsApp, Google Duo, and a bunch of other day-to-day apps and it worked fine. Of course, the chipset tends to suffer a bit when running high-octane apps like Photoshop but luckily, stuttering and lag are restricted towards opening and loading the app, working on these apps doesn’t break the chipset.
I played a few games including some AAA titles. Turns out you can play any games from casual and 2D to high-graphics games. The only catch is, you will have to dial down the graphics to Smooth or Balanced to get better gameplay. Of course, you can go forward with HD but that will only strain the chipset.
Unlike last year’s M21, the M21 2021 rolls out with Android 11-powered OneUI 3.1 Core. It is a trimmed-down version of OneUI 3.1 and still offers the same UI and basically, almost everything is consistent with the standard OneUI 3.1. The software offers faster performance, streamlined visual design, efficient one-handed mode, and more. There are a few bloatware and ads that can be seen on first-party apps although I have learned that Samsung will be removing ads soon. The Galaxy M21 2021 will get Android 12 as well although the timeline is not available.
About the Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition camera setup, you get a 20MP front-facing camera with f/2.2. Flip the phone and you get a triple rear camera setup. This includes a 48MP primary shooter with f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, 1/2.0″ sensor size. An 8MP ultrawide snapper with a 123° FoV, an aperture of f/2.2; and a third 5MP depth shooter with f/2.2 aperture. This completes the triple camera array.
The same camera setup can be seen on Galaxy M30s and M21 as well. The M21 2021 Edition camera ultimately produces almost the same results as the other two mentioned here. You get a 4-in-1 binned mode by default on the primary snapper that captures 12MP shots. Turns out daytime photography is rather way better as the sensor retains most details with good dynamic range and sharpness levels were well-contained.
Low Light photography on M21 2021 Edition is sort of okay. You don’t get good shots though but that depends on the lighting conditions. If you are talking about low-light photos indoors with flash, the amount of details is impressively good. When it comes to outdoor shots, you still need a Night Mode to capture shots with long exposure. This helps the shot get more light, more details, it highlights the scene among others. I won’t say the shots are any bad but it works.
The 8MP ultrawide snapper isn’t any different from many other smartphones in this price segment. The shots were softer but overall, the shots didn’t have much detail. The snapper captured a much wider field of view and that’s why it is called ultrawide snapper eh!. There’s a degree of edge distortion though.
We are left with a 5MP depth sensor that works with the primary camera to take portrait shots. Luckily, a 5MP resolution is much larger than the 2MP module seen on many smartphones in this price tag. The sensor can focus on the subject, isolate the background and apply background blur accordingly. You can select the level of blur effect after taking the photo.
There’s a 20MP selfie camera on-board capable of taking good-quality shots in the daytime. Perhaps you will be annoyed with the beautification mode which is enabled by default. You can tune it down though. Selfies take a 12MP shot or you can go for a 20MP resolution shot as well depending upon your requirements. Turns out there’s not much noise when zooming in. Finally, the camera setup is capable of recording 4K videos at 30fps while the front is capped at 1080p@30fps as well.
With a 6,000 mAh battery pack on board, the Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition isn’t any different from last year’s M21. The battery is capable enough to give you a battery life of 2 days or even more with a mix of light to moderate usage. Heavy usage on the phone will take you through the day into the next day with ease.
When tested, I found out that the Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition battery lasted for 21 hours and 48 minutes on an HD video loop test. This means the battery pack is splendid enough to keep you away from the charger for a long time.
For charging purposes, you have a 15W fast charging tech. If that seems slow, trust me even flagship phones from Samsung are capped at 25W so a 15W isn’t that bad. It takes around 2 hours to fill the battery pack to its full capacity. Samsung should’ve opted for faster charging though but we are left with a not-so-fast charging tech even after paying Rs 15,000/- for the top variant.
Don’t hope for a dual or hybrid stereo speaker here. The Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition sports a single bottom-firing loudspeaker similar to its 2020 version. The speaker is loud, clear, and that’s about it. The speaker is tiny and could hamper your media viewing and gaming experience unlike a stereo speaker setup but as I said, don’t expect a stereo speaker setup at this price tag. Luckily, M21 2021 comes with Dolby Atmos that refines audio to a great extent albeit via the headphone jack. It doesn’t work with the loudspeaker.
There’s no 5G. You get 4G LTE-A so there’s no carrier aggregation as well which isn’t surprising at this price tag though. The phone supports multiple 4G bands and as always, it is backwards compatible just in case you wanted to make sure before buying it. I didn’t have any problem connecting on calls with people irrespective of my location, be it in my office or the basement. Sound quality is optimum and nothing much to highlight if you are a budget smartphone user.
Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition is a budget smartphone. It is equipped with a face unlock and rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. The latter is snappy and reliable while face unlock does its job well but introduces a minor delay. You won’t see any difference if you haven’t tried mid-range phones yet so chill.
- 6000 mAh battery
- 48MP GM2 sensor
- Android 11 out of the box
- Super AMOLED screen
- 20MP selfie camera
- Gorilla Glass 3 protection
- Only 15W fast charging
- Average performance
- No 5G connectivity
At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you need versus what you are ready to compromise when it comes to a Sub-15K INR smartphone. Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition is the same as its older 2020 version except for some cosmetic changes and upgraded software. Battery life is great and there’s no doubt about it but you get slower charging support. The chipset performance is satisfactory but I expect better performance at this price tag. This doesn’t mean the chipset cannot handle stuff, it does but it could have been better.
The camera is okayish and there’s no oomph factor about it. I guess Samsung could improve camera performance via software updates but for that, you will have to actually buy the device and wait. Samsung Galaxy M21 2021 Edition is a cool day-to-day usage promising a splendid battery backup and decent performance overall.