When my readers ask me to define the ultimate smartphone, I tell them there is no such phone on the market and there won’t be one ever. Instead of seeking the perfect phone, consumers should rather look for a smartphone that adapts to their lifestyle. While reviewing the Galaxy S21+, I found a smartphone that feels familiar but creates a lasting impression. The Galaxy S21+ has a new design language, a smooth 120Hz display, a powerful 5nm chip, long battery life, and capable cameras. In my opinion, the Galaxy S21+ fixes all the issues the last-gen Galaxy S20 series had, and I am glad Samsung addressed those issues. The Galaxy S21+ isn’t cheap, though, at a starting price of Rs 81,999. I have been testing the Galaxy S21+ for the past week, and here is how the flagship fared.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ price in India: Rs 81,999 onwards
Samsung Galaxy S21+ review: What’s new?
The looks of the Galaxy S21+ seem inspired by a luxury Swiss watch, especially the phantom violet and rose gold colours. I know people who would want to buy the Galaxy S21+ just because there is an element of rose gold in the phone’s design. Otherwise, the Galaxy S21+ flouts the quintessential Samsung linage.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: The best gets even better
The phone is comfortable to hold and is less slippery. I think the decision to go with the plastic back instead of the glass rear has something to do with reducing the weight of the phone. I don’t have issues with the plastic back on the Galaxy S21+. In fact, plastic is less likely to scratch and attract fewer fingerprints, unlike glass.
The Galaxy S21+ gives a satisfying vibe. The camera bump is there, but this time around it is more recessed into the side of the phone’s chassis. I have also liked the second-generation Qualcomm Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. It feels faster and works accurately than the previous iteration of the in-display fingerprint reader.
Samsung loaned me the variant of the Galaxy S21+ with 128GB in-built storage and 8GB RAM, but the company is also selling another model with 256GB storage. There is no microSD card slot, so choose the variant accordingly. There’s also no headphone jack but you can use a pair of USB-C headphones or truly wireless earbuds.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ review: What’s good?
The Super AMOLED flat screen on the Galaxy S21+ is simply brilliant. The display is bright and colourful, with excellent colour reproduction and good viewing angles. I could read texts, even under the sunlight. It is a Full HD+ display and not the QHD+ one found on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Honestly, it won’t make a huge difference to most consumers. But the 6.7-inch 1080p AMOLED screen does refresh at 120Hz. Samsung has gone for a 120Hz adaptive display that allows the screen to refresh between 48 and 120Hz. That’s a good thing, because it improves power efficiency.
Inside, my Galaxy S21+is powered by Samsung’s flagship Exynos 2100. I think there shouldn’t be a huge performance jump between the Galaxy S21+ variant with the Snapdragon 888 processor and my review unit that runs on the Exynos 2100, as both chips are based on a 5nm process. People don’t care about the 5nm chip, they are only interested in real-life usage. The Galaxy S21+ feels faster than the Galaxy S20 Ultra which I reviewed last year, and in my opinion, it is a fair comparison to judge the two phones. Games run smoothly on this phone, downloading apps is fast, and editing photos is also fast. The Galaxy S21+ also comes with 5G, which we were obviously unable to test.
The camera plays an important role in a consumer’s decision-making when he chooses a new phone, and Samsung knows it well. But in the era of multiple camera setups and AI, people often ask me what to look for in a smartphone camera. And my answer to them is to simply check the picture quality and decide whether you liked the camera or not.
In this year’s Galaxy S21+, there are three cameras on the back: a main 12MP camera, a 12MP 120-degree ultra-wide, and a 64MP, 3x optical telephoto snapper. On the front, you will find a 10MP selfie camera. Technically, there aren’t major differences between the camera setup on the Galaxy S21+ and the Galaxy S20. But Samsung has added a couple of new camera tricks like Vlogger View, improved portrait mode, better Super Steady and Cinematic 8K Snap. I don’t know which of these features might interest you but it’s there on the phone.
The Galaxy S21+’s camera is good in every situation. The phone takes better shots than the last year’s Galaxy S20 FE, be it regular photos, portrait images, or even night mode shots. In portrait mode, the Galaxy S21+ was able to capture true colours and much more detail. In night mode, the phone managed to produce decent photos in the dark. The selfie camera has been improved too, but I am not too fond of taking my own self-portraits. I haven’t been able to test the video capture capability of the S21+ fully yet, but what I saw was impressive.
The Galaxy S21+ has a long battery life, partly because of the adaptive refresh rate mode, improved chipset, and the battery in it is bigger. Its 4800mAh battery should comfortably last a day on a single charge. I consider myself a heavy user; I get notifications all day long; I watch a lot of YouTube videos; I read a lot of news articles on my phone. For a user like myself, the Galaxy S21+ makes a lot of sense.
Samsung has always been criticised for its skin used on its phones. It was a mess – but Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 that runs on top of Android 11 feels much better. The UI is less distracting; plus, I like using extra features that Samsung overlays on top of Android. A useful feature in my opinion is Samsung DeX, which basically converts your smartphone into a sort of computer. When you plug in the Galaxy S21+ to a monitor, you will notice a PC-like UI instead of a smartphone UI. Pair it with a keyboard and mouse, and the Galaxy S21+ turns into a full-fledged PC. It works but I feel not many people use Samsung DeX.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ review: What’s not good?
The Galaxy S21+ is a high-end phone but there is no charger in the box, which puzzles me a lot. I don’t know what to say. Samsung has only included USB-C-to-USB-C cable in the box. So you have to shell an extra for a fast charger.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ review: Should you buy it?
I think the Galaxy S21+ is a good phone, a more polished version of the Galaxy S20+. If you are planning to upgrade from the Galaxy S20 to the Galaxy S21+, keep using your current phone for another year or so. But if you are coming from the Galaxy S9 or S10, the Galaxy S21+ will surely impress you. At Rs 81,999, the S21+ is not cheap—but this price is fair for a flagship Samsung phone that aims to compete with the iPhone 12 series.