Review: The Galaxy S21 5G surprised us with its changes
10:21

Review: The Galaxy S21 5G surprised us with its changes

Phones
[MUSIC] All right, this is the Samsung Galaxy S 21 5G. Let's get this review going [MUSIC] Galaxy S 21 along with the Galaxy S 21 plus and the Galaxy S 21 Ultra make up the 2021 S series lineup. The big headline here is the fact that in the US, Sampson was able to cut $200 off of the price each phone. Clearly this probably wasn't done out of generosity but to hit that price, especially on the Galaxy S 21. Trade offs were made like the removal of a wall charger and headphones from the box, the removal of the micro SD card slot from the phone, the removal of four gigabytes of RAM, the removal of half the pixels from the screen, the removal of Gorilla Glass from the back. I could go on, even with those sacrifices, the Galaxy S 21 and its starting price of $800 in the US. It's far more interesting and appealing than the S 20 of last year. In fact, the S 21 lineup has more to distinguish one phone from another that makes the S 21. The no brainer. You're due for an upgrade phone that you get from a carrier. And, yeah, a lot of people are gonna get this phone. [MUSIC] Now I wanna acknowledge the design. The two tone approach gives the phone, Art Deco sensibility. I mean, okay, Samsung, embrace the camera majorly and it made it bigger and more industrial looking. I can almost envision someone at Samsung Searching to find the perfect drill press to make the camera cutouts just the right size. The bump seemingly melts into the size. This purple and gold S21 that I reviewed called phantom violet gives us some major mardi gras vibes. Other phantom colors for the S21 include gray, pink, white and there's limited edition phantom colors of gold and red Which are only available on Samsung's website. The back is polycarbonate aka plastic. It has a matte finished and feels great in the hand. Now people have strong feelings about flat. The P word on phones but the S 21 feels well made it lacks the hollow feel a. Plastic foam from five or six years ago might have. around the front is Gorilla Glass victus, which we first saw the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra as a complete package. The S 21 has a very striking design. My only worry would be someone mistaking the microphone hole on the bottom of the phone between the USBC port The SIM card tray as the place to eject the SIM card which, by the way the S 21 has dual SIM card support for both a physical card and an E Sim. Okay, let's talk about the display. The hole punch display with Samson called the Infinity o screen is my favorite workaround for not having a notch or bigger bezel. The S 21 flat display looks very contemporary. It has a full HD resolution which is a step down from the quad HD resolution on the S 20. Now I can't say that a full HD display looks better than a quad HD one cuz it probably doesn't, but it's not as dramatic of a change when I'm using the phone every day. And I think a lot of that comes from the adaptive screen refresh rate that can go from 48 up to 120 hertz depending on what's being displayed. And yeah, it just makes for a great experience. Now curious addition is the new icomfort Shield setting. Which is just like the blue light filter setting we've seen on previous Samsung phones but it's automatically adjusted based on time. That's it. Okay, so powering the S 21 is the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip along with eight gigabytes of RAM and yes, that's four eighths. And [LAUGH] I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of performance having four gigabytes, less ram Then the Galaxy S 20. Now in our benchmark test the S 21 scored better than last year's s 20. And in use it handled everything from photo edits to gameplay at 120 hertz just fine. The 888 ship allows for some new features to like the director's view, which I'll talk more about in a moment. The only time that the phone was working hard was the back got warm, downloading large files, like games videos or playing a game longer than 20 minutes one time. I should note that the phone got really hot running the benchmark test 3D mark and the battery settings I had enhanced performance enabled with targets all apps that aren't games. 3d mark is not a game but it's a benchmark for gaming. Anyway, I turned enhanced performance off and ran 3d Mark again and the phone didn't get hot. Weird right? When it comes to battery life this is definitely a one day phone which is on par with last year's s 20. That had the exact same size battery. I like having adaptive fresh red screen to help keep the battery drain at a minimum. And at the time, I'm recording this video, I still have several battery exhaustion tests to run. So check out my written review on cnet.com. For updates on that, I wanna shout out something I'm seeing more and more on Android phones and that software too. Helps optimize and take care of the battery. It can help close apps as well as lets you set limits of background use of the battery by apps. Choose charging speeds for wired and wireless charging. And I think it's really smart especially for gonna be owning the S 21 for 2 or 3 years. In terms of cameras, well Hardware wise are exactly the same as the ones on the S 20, which I found were quite good. So just a quick refresher. On the back are three cameras a wide, ultra wide and a telephoto camera. I ran on like the ultra wide on the S 21. It might be my favorite ultra wide camera on Android right now. Now photos are really good. For selfies you now have an option for bright or natural which is excellent. And I want to apologize for how much you're going to see my face, but Hey, quarantine times, am I right? I think selfie skin tones look really good especially with all the face effects turned off. I should say there are people who Well, they really want to have the option for looking the way they want. So there's that on the backside for photos autofocus is fast and can switch between foreground and background objects very quickly. In Video, auto focus switching isn't as fast but when it grabs focus, it seems to hold on to it pretty good. In the camera app when I'm in video mode, I like having a button at the top to toggle between different resolutions and frames per second. Now one issue some people had with the S 20 series last year was skin tone. So I took several photos of myself using the rear cameras and the default camera mode. The rear cameras in the default camera mode with the face filter turned off Portrait mode with skin softening set to zero and Pro mode and as you can see, there are some differences. And again, some of this is going to come down to personal preference, but I don't think it's as bad as some of the results we saw on the 20 last year. Samsung added a fun new video feature called directors view and allows you to do a couple different things you can record just From one camera at a time, but get a thumbnail preview of live feeds coming from all the other cameras on the phone. You can also go into a side by side format or like vlogger mode. It lets you record yourself via the selfie camera. And then what you're seeing or reacting to with any of the rear cameras. And what's great is you could switch between those rear cameras while you're recording. I gotta say, I thought directors view would be more like a gimmick kind of like single tick, which I think is a gimmick and that's the one that records, photos and videos and you know, identifies moments and gives you a variety of options, but I could definitely see people who'd want to use directors you especially with a kind of control convenience Those live thumbnail feeds give you it outputs as HD video and I can't find a way to save directory view as 4k or 8k and I would love to see this thumbnail preview interface when recording a 4k video it would just truly add some professional polish. Let's talk about one ui 3.1 which I really like it. You have even more ways to default to Google services, like Google Pay or adding the Google Discover news feed to the home screen. Small touches like pop-up window for adjusting audio look clean and modern. And I'm a big fan of how much the software is weighted toward the bottom of the display, which makes one handed navigation all the more easy. I also got to try out the galaxy, smart tag, which you can clip to a, backpack or ,keys. It not only helps track their location, but you could also play an audio alert, to find them. Now, this version uses Bluetooth, and the built in battery will last, one year, at least according to Samsung, but, good news it's replaceable. I really don't know how to review this thing. Except long term and just using it every day until I actually truly misplace or lose an item that one of these is connected to and just hope that it works so I could find it, so there. And last, let's talk 5g, the es 21 supports both sub six and millimeter wave. Meaning in the US, you have your choice of carriers for the S 21, which is great. I still think 5G is not the sole reason to get this phone. But for many people, the S 21 will be their first 5G phone and as carriers and their 5G networks get better and have more coverage, you're gonna see your speeds and connections improve. Look. Overall, the S 21 is a significant rethink by Samsung. Who may have tried to push the es 20 a little too far into the premium territory last year. But I think Samsung found a good balance in terms of price and features and design on the S 21. So that's all I got. Make sure you check out my written review on cnet.com where I go even more in depth on the S 21. And its features. And also Check out my Galaxy S 21 Ultra review video, but now, I'd like to hear from you. What do you think of the Galaxy S 21? Do you like the approach Samsung took with it? There are your thoughts in the comments.

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