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Samsung Galaxy S21+ Review: The middle child's a dark horse

After our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review, we have used the Galaxy S21+ for nearly 10 days to find out the pros and cons of the device.

February 22, 2021 / 03:52 PM IST

Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 Ultra as its ultimate flagship offering for the global market. We recently reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and were very impressed with its overall performance. However, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra price in India starts at Rs 1,05,999 - an amount that not many might be able to afford. For those who want the best of smartphones that Samsung offers, there is also the Samsung Galaxy S21+. The smartphone shares the features and specifications from the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra while sitting between the two. How good is the Galaxy S21+? Is it a better deal compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra? Should you buy this over the Apple iPhone 12 - a smartphone that is considered to the best in the price range? These and other questions will be answered in our Samsung Galaxy S21+ review.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Review

The Galaxy S21+ sits between the Galaxy S21 and the Ultra model. The design language is similar across and it is almost as tall as the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The phone shares the same Exynos 2100 SoC found on the Ultra flagship. After our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review, we have used the Galaxy S21+ for nearly 10 days to find out the pros and cons of the device. To start with, let’s begin with the design and display

Design and Display

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

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The Samsung Galaxy S21+ is almost the same size as the Ultra model. The display is 0.1-inch smaller than the Galaxy S21 Ultra but feels tall at 6.7-inches. To cut some corners and differentiate the Ultra from the rest of the lineup, the other two models come with a Full HD+ resolution. The screen, which comes with a peak brightness of 1,300 nits, is sharp and offers vibrant colours - something that Samsung displays are known to offer. The viewing experience on this flat, edge-to-edge display is also excellent courtesy of the narrow bezels around the AMOLED display. It does have a hole-punch cutout at the top but that is unlikely to bother you. The display comes with adaptive refresh rate support. It basically means that the refresh rate will switch between 48Hz and 120Hz depending on the type of content on the screen. We did not notice any stuttering or lag and the overall performance of the display is very smooth.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

The rear panel is the same as the standard Galaxy S21. It comes in three distinct colours - Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black. Although our favourite is the Phantom Black that you also get on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Review), our Galaxy S21 Plus in Phantom Silver also looks stunning. It has a matte finish that helps keep fingerprints at bay. At nearly 200 grams, the Galaxy S21 Plus doesn’t feel as heavy, especially after coming from the bulkier Galaxy S21 Ultra but offers an excellent in-hand feel, thanks to the curved edges and the premium materials used. 

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

What adds to the premium design is the stylish camera cutout. The camera module blends into the phone’s frame, giving it a very premium look. I personally thought that Samsung hit its peak with the camera module design on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (Review) but the Galaxy S21 series camera module design one-ups it, in my opinion. 

The power and volume keys were easily accessible for me. At the bottom edge lies the USB Type-C port sandwiched between the speaker grille and the dual-SIM card slot. The dual-speaker setup is loud and clear and could work as a fair replacement to the 3.5mm headphone jack that’s missing on the S21+. There’s also IP68 certification for water, dust resistance.

Performance and Software

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

The Samsung Galaxy S21+ comes packed with Samsung’s latest Exynos 2100 SoC. Unlike previous generation processors, the Exynos 2100 proved to be a lot more improved in terms of performance and efficiency. The 5nm-based Exynos 2100 comes very close to Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, as per several benchmark tests online. We are yet to see a Snapdragon 888 SoC-powered phone in India, so we wouldn’t judge the comparison until we review one.

Regardless, the Exynos 2100 SoC variant did not disappoint us. During our Samsung Galaxy S21+ review period, we played multiple games like Call of Duty, Asphalt 9, etc. There wasn’t any hint of lag or stutter. The phone did get slightly warm to the touch but nothing alarming.

Samsung Galaxy S21+-8

The performance upgrade is not just limited to the hardware but also the software. OneUI 3.0 is a lot cleaner now and continues to be feature-rich. Samsung’s strong suit here is the gestures onboard coupled with excellent optimisation for the Galaxy S21 Plus.

The other department where we are very surprised with the performance is battery life. The phone was running at the adaptive 120Hz refresh rate setting at FHD+ resolution all the time. The 4,800 mAh battery gave us upwards of five hours of screen-on time on an average. On days when we shot photos and videos along with some gameplay, the SoT ranged between 4-4.5 hours.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

Oh, by the way, Samsung has pulled an Apple here by not providing a charging adapter inside the box “for the environment”. For a phone that costs about Rs 80,000 in India, it’s a shame that consumers don’t have an option to bundle a fast charger. During our Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review period, we relied on the AMX XP60 multiport charger. The phone charged from zero to 100  percent within a few minutes over an hour.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

There’s an in-display fingerprint scanner along with face unlock, which is quite quick to unlock the phone.

Camera

Samsung has packed the same triple-camera setup on the S21 Plus that you got on last year’s S20+. It has a 12MP main camera, a 12MP ultrawide sensor, and a 64MP telephoto lens. The camera setup is versatile enough for the average consumer.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

The 12MP main camera clicks good quality images. The colours are well saturated and the overall image is sharp. The device also offers excellent dynamic range and contrast levels. In low-light too, the camera performance is good. It does not offer as good of a lowlight performance as the Galaxy S21 Ultra but gets really close. The camera performance is neck to neck when in comparison with the Apple iPhone 12 (Review). Although the Galaxy S21+ offers more video features like the Director’s View, Portrait Video, etc., the iPhone 12 wins by a slight margin in terms of overall video quality with better contrast and dynamic range.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

The ultrawide camera performance is pretty good too. Although it does not offer as good detail as the main camera, the colour science is similar across the three lenses. There is distortion around the edges but the software tries its best to fix that. There is also a 64MP telephoto camera with up to 30x zoom. Depending on what you are shooting and how far the subject is, the camera hardware, coupled with the software, manages to get the best possible results in decent lighting. In most cases, the results of images shot up to 10x zoom are usable for your Gram. 30x is decent but introduces a lot of noise.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ (Image: Pranav Hegde)

For selfies, the Galaxy S21+ comes with a 10MP front camera. Images overall are sharp and detailed. The colours are close to real and there is no skin smoothening as such. Samsung does ask you upon setup whether you want “Natural” or “Bright” selfies, which is a good touch, in my opinion. Portrait mode offers good edge detection and a bunch of modes. 

We tried clicking some moon shots during our Samsung Galaxy S21+ review. You can click on the Flickr slideshow below to check some of the camera samples we shot on Samsung Galaxy S21+.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus photos

Verdict

Finally, should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus? How does it perform against the Apple iPhone 12?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus price in India starts at Rs 81,999 at the time of writing this review. For the price, the smartphone rings all the bells and whistles to call itself a flagship offering. Sure, there are areas where compromises have been made. A WQHD+ display and an in-box charger would have added more value to the device in my opinion. But even for what’s on offer, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ does justice to the flagship tag with the specs and features on offer.

The FHD+ 120Hz is perhaps the best you can get in the price range. It outperforms the iPhone 12 in this department. Even the camera performance is close to the Apple iPhone 12 (Review). 

Performance-wise, the Apple iPhone 12’s A14 beats Exynos in terms of benchmarks. However, if you look at the day-to-day performance comparison, you are unlikely to notice any significant difference between the two offerings. Camera-wise, it’s tough to choose between the Galaxy S21+ and the iPhone as both devices offer excellent imaging capabilities. The Galaxy S21 Plus leads with its telephoto camera features but the iPhone 12 covers up with its video capabilities. 

Samsung also promises to offer three generations worth of software support for the Galaxy S21 series. The device runs on Android 11-based OneUI 3 out of the box and is likely to get Android 14-based Samsung skin. It is certainly close to the iPhone 12, and the difference in the operating system could be a deal-breaker for you, the consumer.

If you are in the Android world and are looking for the best smartphone under Rs 1 lakh in India, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus could perhaps be among your primary options. The middle child in Samsung’s flagship line for 2021 offers an excellent performance unit wrapped inside a solidly-built premium body.

If you want the absolute best that Samsung offers (which possibly is the best Android smartphone in India at the moment), click here to check our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review. 
Pranav Hegde
first published: Feb 22, 2021 03:52 pm

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