Introduction - Yet Another Flagship
Samsung reprised the Galaxy S-series with its Galaxy S21 trio this year. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus takes the middle possible between the most powerful and the standard Galaxy S21 models. Although there isn’t much difference when it comes to its display and other techs, camera specifications do draw a clear distinction between the Galaxy S21+ and S21 Ultra. Galaxy S21+ is truly magnificent as I believe it captures the best one could get in a smartphone at price under Rs.80,000 providing the best software experience and hardware configurations unmatched by others. Here, I tried the Galaxy S21+ for a few days to draw a review that would let you decide whether to go for it or not.
Prices in India, Variants, Availability
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is available in India in three colour variants and storage trims. The base 128GB+8GB variant fetches a price tag of Rs 81,999/- on Amazon India with up to 12,400/- off with eligible exchange while you get up to Rs 16,209/- off on the Samsung India website. It is available in Phantom Silver, Phantom Black, and Phantom Violet colour variants.
The higher 8GB+256GB variant of Galaxy S21 Plus is up for sale at Rs 85,999/- with similar exchange discounts on both Amazon India and Samsung India website. You can avail of No Cost EMI, EMIs on Credit and Debit Cards, and more when you decide to buy to get the best deal.
It is not astonishing to notice that Samsung followed the path of Apple and decided to keep the packaging slim by removing the charging adapter this time. The box contents of Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus go light and just include:
- Galaxy S21 Plus handset
- USB-C to USB-C cable
Specs at a glance
Let me talk about the on-paper specifications of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus at first:
- Display: 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
- Chipset: Exynos 2100 octa-core processor
- RAM & ROM: 8GB/128GB
- Software: Samsung OneUI 3.1 based on Android 10
- Rear camera: Triple rear camera setup – Main Camera 12MP Dual Pixel + Ultra Wide 12MP Camera + Tele1 3X 64MP Camera
- Selfie camera: 10MP front Dual Pixel Camera
- Battery: 4800mAH
- Weight: 202g
- Dimensions: 161.5 mm x 75.6 mm x 7.8 mm
With key specs discussed, let’s jump right into the review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus and see if outperforms the other flagship devices.
Design and Build - Quite Appealing
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus has a solid sandwich built from the front and back glass and aluminium frame. The glass isn’t ordinary but rather a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides that prevents cracks on the panel when you accidentally or intentionally throw or it slips. The front is an edge-to-edge display with extremely thin bezels almost identical to its predecessor Galaxy S20+. A front camera takes just a tiny screen real estate at the centre allowing for a larger area for the notification bar to pop up.
Turn around and you’ll find a rather humongous triple camera sensor placed individually on a camera bump that fuses with the side rails. As much as I would stress it enough, it looks exceptional, unlike the renders that preceded it before it launched. The camera bump protrudes slightly with the three sensors taking an individual stand and yes, the camera bump has a different colour tone that matches with the colour of the aluminium frame and it is total eye candy. Samsung calls it Contour Cut and it looks pretty happening.
You’ll find a power/Bixby button on the right along with power buttons on the upper side, a USB Type-C port, a SIM tray, and a bottom-firing loudspeaker are located at the bottom. Finally, there’s an additional speaker on the top for stereo sound support. Overall, the device looks and feels premium. Samsung has better ergonomics and handling as the phone feels natural with one-handed usage whereas even the iPhone 12 Pro Max fails to do so given it has the same display size. You won’t get a 3.5mm headphone jack as usual and no dedicated Bixby key either.
Display - All You Want
Talking purely about the specs, Galaxy S21+ sports a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate and with 1300 nits of peak brightness. The display is HDR10+ compliant and has a resolution of 1080×2400 pixels (424PPI) and a 20:9 aspect ratio. The top is protected by a tensile strength-cadre Corning Gorilla Glass Victus tested to stay put even if subjected to a dozen falls from a 1-1.5metres at an average. Victus is on the back panel as well so your device is pretty protected.
When it comes to the display tech, Samsung Galaxy S21+ is a bag mix of both pros and cons. Somehow the upgraded S21+ has a downgraded display than the S20 that Samsung has packaged the Galaxy S21+/S21 Plus’ display with an intelligent adaptive refresh rate that varies from 48 to 120Hz range based on what is being viewed on the display.
The display is truly magnificent and there’s no doubt about it but that major drop from a Quad HD+ panel to FHD+ is truly bugging users. You also get a much lower pixel per inch ratio at 394 PPI which means the display is less refined than the Galaxy S20+’ 525 PPI. Plus, the display is flat while paying such a premium price tag for a flat display although people are happy with a flat display over a curved one.
The device is using an OLED panel over the LTPO version which subtracts a few points off Galaxy S21+ scores when compared with the uber-premium and powerful Galaxy S21 Ultra. But overall, the display is vibrant with punchy colours and it is stretched out edge-to-edge which is a major USP. The punch-hole sensor takes up less screen real estate as well.
Performance - Just Above Flagship
When it comes to the hardware under the hood, Samsung Galaxy S21+ arrives with two configurations where the U.S. models get a Snapdragon 888 SoC clocked at 2.84GHz under the hood with Adreno 660 GPU. On the contrary, the international model gets Samsung’s in-house Exynos 2100 5nm chipset clocked at 2.9GHz max frequency along with Mali-G78 MP14 GPU. The device has a 128GB+8GB and 8GB+256GB UFS 3.1 storage system with no card slot or other storage configuration available at the user’s disposal.
The U.S. version has a Snapdragon 888 SoC which I personally prefer and is currently on top of the docket when it comes to powerful processors. Unlike the U.S. version, the Indian version gets Samsung’s in-house Exynos 2100 SoC that we have tested in and out for a few days. The processor feels zippy and snappy and doesn’t lag a bit even when subjected to hardcore gaming like PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty: Mobile. The device didn’t warm up minutes into the game, unlike the previous S20+ which is a major boon.
The processor is optimized for Galaxy S21 Plus well enough that it impressed us a lot. Talking about the numbers, the Exynos 2100 was able to churn almost 500 points above when it comes to multi-core tests on Geekbench 5 when compared to Galaxy S20+.
The GPU has been improved and can produce a 46 per cent better performance than before. The chipset is built on a 5nm chipset which is the same node Snapdragon 888 is produced on although the latter gets an upper hand and Exynos 2100 fiddles at the second position.
Software - Nothing New Here
The Samsung OneUI 3.1 based on Android 11 is the latest software on the phone and it comes with 3 major OS updates. This means Galaxy S21 Plus will get Android 12, 13, and 14 as well. The UI is built around smoother one-handed usage. All the apps icons are monochrome and there’s a lot of UI changes to other elements such as a newly added wellbeing widget on the lock screen that keeps you updated on how many times you unlocked the phone and so on.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus packs in a triple camera setup. This includes its primary 12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture with OIS, 1.8micrometer pixel size; a secondary 64MP telephoto sensor with f/2.0 aperture, with OIS, 1.1x optical, and 3x hybrid zoom. Finally, the third snapper is a 12MP ultrawide shooter with an aperture of f/2.2 with a 120-degree field of view along with Super Steady Video. When it comes to the front camera, Galaxy S21+ sports a 10MP shooter with dual pixel PDAF with an aperture of f/2.2.
On paper, there’s not much change when it comes to the camera setup on Galaxy S21+ and S20+ but instead, the former has a ToF 3D sensor removed. The cameras mounted on Galaxy S21+ are far better than Galaxy S20+ and Exynos 2100 processor does churn out better images.
Talking about the camera app, Samsung has upgraded the app with tweaks and changes that make it a much powerful one now. Take your phone and take some daylight shots and you would see that the results come very appealing. You get better colour saturation, a wider dynamic range, and more with S21+. The shots are pretty detailed and it is a slight uptick from that of Galaxy S20+. The ultrawide camera on-board S21 clears sharper images too. Here, the dynamic range isn’t that wide and thus, you will see colours blowing off on the photos you snap. Also, rest assured that the distortion correction on the ultrawide camera is active as well.
The telephoto sensor does make a lot of buzz as it lets you take exceptional shots in good daylight. Use its 2x zoom and you still have a detailed shot on your device but when you are yanking up the zoom, you will start losing some details. When it comes to low light shots, Galaxy S21 has an upper hand as well and it has been refined when compared to S20+, however, you would still get better nighttime shots with S21 Ultra.
The portrait shots are full of life although the Galaxy S21 Ultra shines in this department with vibrant colours. Live Focus on S21+ which is Samsung’s Portrait mode blurs the background from the subject to produce excellent shots. The edge detection is impressive and you can even snap portrait shots and offer you 2.5 times zoom. Selfies on the device take a front seat as well with better details, a wide dynamic range, and so on.
What makes it stick with smartphone enthusiasts is its ability to shoot videos at 8 exceptionally high K resolution. But as you go forward from HD+ to 4K and from 30 to 60 fps and more, the OIS does suffer a bit. The device can shoot 4K videos at 30 or 60fps with its front camera. On the front, the device supports 8K@24fps and accelerates at 720p@960fps. The primary and the telephoto sensor has OIS while the ultrawide sensor doesn’t.
The battery mounted on Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is a hefty 4,800 mAh Li-Ion battery with a 25W fast charging tech on-board along with USB Power Delivery 3.0 with 4.5W reverse wireless charging and 15W Qi/PMA wireless charging tech. If I talk about its capacity in actuality, Galaxy S21 Plus has a one-day battery that lasts for hours on a stretch without giving it a second thought. Spiking up the refresh rate might bring down the battery life a bit but not that much.
Talking about battery life at 60Hz, I was able to squeeze out a battery life of 12 hours and 11 mins on a loop test while 120Hz would offset it to 10 hours and 50 minutes. The 25W fast charger charges up the battery from 0 to 100 per cent in 70 minutes although that is a bit disappointing given that flagship smartphones have higher charging speeds.
Audio, Connectivity, Biometrics
When it comes to the audio quality, the bottom-firing speaker pairs up with a secondary speaker mounted on the top in a stereo speaker setup. Tuned by AKG, the sound quality pops out with a great balance of bass and treble given the fact that AKG is a well-known entity. The audio reproduction has good details and gives out the balanced sound quality.
Talking about the connectivity features, the device is packed with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6 with dual-band support. The device sports a Bluetooth 5.0 with LE and A2DP; GPS supports include Galileo, BDS, Glonass, and A-GPS. You also get an NFC on-board which is available on all variants while the FM radio is for the Snapdragon version only and thus, not available in India.
Talking about security, Galaxy S21 Plus sports a larger under-the-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner than the previous S20 predecessor. It is faster and unlocks the phone easier than before. It has a large area that allows you to simply tap and unlock and not find the perfect spot to unlock the phone. The FPS is super responsive and that’s what made our day. Its Face Unlock works like magic too and yes, it works on masks as well so you need not remove those safety masks to unlock the phone. Then, there is the usual PIN and pattern lock as well.
Pros & Cons
- Super smooth 120Hz display
- Striking Exynos 2100 chipset
- Larger under-display fingerprint sensor
- Supports Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
- Compatible with Wireless PowerShare
- 8GB RAM + 256GB internal storage
- IP68 rated dust and water protection
- Low screen resolution than its predecessor
- A flagship device with 10MP selfie camera
- Non-availability of Snapdragon chipset for the global market
- Absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack
Samsung reprised the S-series lineup adding another stone to the crown with Samsung Galaxy S21+. It gets the best of the standard Galaxy S21 with some inputs from the S21 Ultra while keeping the price tag somewhere in the middle. It strikes a perfect balance with its ergonomic yet humongous build, excellent build-quality and camera setup, a striking OneUI 3.1 update based on Android 11 among others. The letdowns are the bloatware, a downgraded display tech, no microSD, and headphone jack among others that are truly giving its rivals a lead.
The upcoming OnePlus 9 series and Xiaomi Mi 11 is surely going to be a tough contender for Galaxy S21+. The bottom of the story is if you can spare more, try your hands on the much-better Galaxy S21 Ultra. If you are spread too thin and want your hands on a cheaper Galaxy S21 series smartphone, you can go for Galaxy S21+ that has an upper hand in many segments including a larger battery, powerful processor, 5G support, smaller form factor which is better for one-handed use and more