Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Very good, but (still) a bit too expensive
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus has been on the market for a few months now and, as expected, has dropped significantly in price. It started with a recommended retail price of a proud 1.049 euros, which was far too much for what was on offer. In the meantime, “only” 850 euros have to be put on the table.
For this price, the technical data is quite impressive: Under the hood is the in-house Exynos 2100, which has made a big leap forward compared to the previous Exynos 990, the 6,7-inch OLED display supports 120 Hertz and the The battery is larger than average with 4.800 mAh. All of this sounds very good, but the competition never sleeps and offers a little more on paper, especially with the cameras, the display resolution and the Fast Charge. In this detailed review, we want to clarify how the S21 Plus fares in comparison to the competition and whether it is recommendable for the lower prices. In a suitable place we will also use that for comparisons S21Ultra to include.
Jump to section
- 1 Haptics, design and processing
- 2 Display - excellent in almost all aspects
- 3 Software - One UI
- 4 Performance - great
- 5 Battery - good, but not perfect
- 6 Camera - better than expected
- 7 Others - speakers, fingerprint sensor and much more
- 8 Summary
- 9 Buy Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
Haptics, design and processing
Although the dimensions of 161,5 mm in height and 75,6 mm in width suggest otherwise, the S21 Plus looks much larger and bulky in the hand than comparable competitors, such as the one OnePlus 9 Pro. The reasons for this are, on the one hand, the weight of 200 grams and the fact that Samsung has dispensed with a display that is rounded on both sides, which makes the smartphone appear a bit wider than it actually is. The difference to the Ultra is actually not that big. Those who prefer large, heavy smartphones will get their money's worth here. I would recommend everyone else to do the normal one S21, OnePlus 9 or the 9th Pro to take a closer look. The latter in particular is much more comfortable to hold due to the rounded display edges and the lower weight, although it is anything but compact in terms of dimensions.
The frame is made of metal with a high-gloss finish, which is why fingerprints are almost magically attracted, but it feels extremely high-quality. While the frame of the black, silver and gold models is in the same color as the device, Samsung has given the red and purple models a frame in the eye-catching color of bronze. Thus, the S21 Plus attracts a few looks. Personally, I like the combination of purple back and bronze frame very much, because the manufacturer provides variety and I personally like it optically.
Next, let's turn to the reverse side. This consists of matt glass, which feels incredibly comfortable and of high quality. Fingerprints are therefore hardly noticeable. As mentioned earlier, with black, silver, gold, red, and purple, customers have five different colors to choose from. I have tested the latter and always looks a little different depending on the incidence of light. In principle, it is not a strong violet, but rather a more restrained violet, which appears slightly bluish in the right light.
In addition to the color, you should immediately notice the new camera design in the left corner. With the S21 series, Samsung has come up with something new that I have never seen in this form on any other smartphone. The camera hill, which contains three sensors, extends smoothly from the frame of the device to the rear. To match the frame, it is bronze in the purple and red models and in the device color for the other colors. The camera bump protrudes visibly from the housing, which means that the S21 Plus wobbles slightly when it is used on the table.
The front is protected by "Corning Gorilla Glass Victus", the most robust glass currently used in a smartphone. Of course, I can't be 100% sure if that's really the case Procent, but fortunately the display glass survived a fall on the floor without any signs of wear. If we unlock the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, we are greeted by the huge OLED display, which is only interrupted by a small, central punch hole that houses the front camera. The edges around the panel are even a bit smaller than on the predecessor. The bottom edge of the screen in particular is actually the thinnest edge in a smartphone at the moment. Not even the current iPhones or that can do that Huawei P40 Pro+ keep up. Many should also be happy that Samsung does not have an edge display in this year's Plus version. Although this has the advantage that annoying reflections never appear on the sides of the screen, it makes the smartphone appear a little wider. A OnePlus 9 Pro with slightly rounded edges is slightly narrower in the hand.
In terms of workmanship, there is absolutely no reason for criticism. Nothing creaks here, nothing wobbles and overall the device makes an extremely stable impression. The keys are all on the right side, have a good pressure point, and are bombproof in the case. However, the keys could have been placed a little further down. Without changing your grip, it is very difficult to get to the keys.
In conclusion, I can say that I really like the design of the Galaxy S21 Plus due to the extremely thin display bezels, the high-quality frame, the camera design and the purple color. I have also given the smartphone to a few people in the last few days and almost everyone was enthusiastic.
Display - excellent in almost all aspects
The screen has a diagonal of 6,7 inches, has a sufficiently sharp resolution of 2.400 x 1.080 pixels and supports a fluid refresh rate of 120 Hertz, which means that the image is updated up to 120 times within a second. The scrolling and all animations run smoothly. The resolution has even become lower compared to its predecessor and the Ultra is also ahead here. In a direct comparison you can definitely see a difference in sharpness, but in everyday life the FHD + resolution is completely sufficient. Nevertheless, I expect an MSRP of 1.049 euros more.
I can only say positive things about the quality of the panel. Starting with the excellent and realistic color reproduction, the really good black value that is typical for OLEDs, the surprisingly good white value and the fantastic brightness. Hardly any other smartphone is as bright in automatic mode as the S21 Plus. As a result, even on sunny days, none occur Protrouble with readability.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the viewing angle stability, which doesn't mean that it's bad, but I would have expected a little more compared to the competition. The S21 Ultra had similar ones for me Prostated problems.
Software - One UI
The in-house user interface One UI, based on Android 11, is used as software. One UI is a highly customized interface that has little to do with stock Android. Nevertheless, I like it relatively well, because the idea of One UI is to be able to operate the smartphones reasonably well with one hand despite the huge displays. There are also some additional functions, such as an eye protection mode, an ingenious gesture control, a very good always-on display and double tap to switch on and off. In addition, Samsung promises to provide the device with software updates for three years and security updates for four years.
Performance - great
Under the hood here in Europe is the Exynos 2100, which is supported by 8 GB of RAM. There is also a choice of 128 or 256 GB internal memory, which unfortunately cannot be expanded via microSD cards.
For the last two to three years, the in-house ExynosProcessors heavily criticized, especially in terms of efficiency. On paper, they were also slightly worse than them in terms of performance Proprocessors from Qualcomm, but this is rather negligible, because the everyday performance is excellent. Apps start and close extremely quickly, you won't find any stutters or delays here, and overall the operating speed is at a very high level. The only thing that could be improved is the processing of photos. Sometimes that takes a really long time.
Another criticism of last year's ExynosProcessors was the heat development, which also our editor Kenneth the Notes 20 Ultra noticed. First of all, I would like to give the all-clear for everyday use of the Galaxy S21 Plus. I didn't notice anything negative here, but the tide turns when gaming, taking photos or running a benchmark. Only then does the smartphone become noticeable, but by no means alarmingly warm. I even find that smartphones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, such as the OnePlus 9, 9 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11 or Realme gt get a little warmer.
Battery - good, but not perfect
Samsung has installed a 4.800 mAh battery that can be charged quickly with up to 25 watts. You have to buy the required power supply separately, which I find extremely ridiculous for the high recommended retail price.
The battery runtimes are basically good, but I would have expected a little more for a 4.800 mAh battery. With activated 120 Hertz I always got through a day easily and even 1,5 days were possible every now and then. At the end of the day, with a screen-on-time of 5 to 6,5 hours, I usually still had 5 to 25 Procent battery left. This means that the battery life is slightly worse than that of the S21 Ultra, but significantly better than that of the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The battery consumption in standby mode, which is a bit too high for my taste, is quite noticeable, especially in the mobile network. Here the in-house ExynosProzessor is still a bit behind the Snapdragon SoCs. Despite this, Samsung has improved quite a few things compared to the previous 990.
Camera - better than expected
In terms of the cameras, hardly anything has changed on paper compared to the predecessor. Samsung does without the TOF sensor this year, but otherwise everything has stayed the same. The main sensor has a resolution of 12 megapixels, the ultra-wide-angle camera as well and the telecamera has a resolution of 64 megapixels. The latter enables a 3-fold hybrid zoom and digital can be zoomed up to 30-fold. The front camera has a resolution of 10 megapapixels.
Let's start with the main camera first. This takes typical Samsung bright and saturated pictures that don't always correspond to reality, but it's still absolutely fine. The images are not oversaturated quite as extreme as with OPPO or Realme. The dynamic range is also quite convincing and surprising prothe 12 megapixel sensor produces very detailed images. It doesn't have to be in front of an S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9 Pro or OPPO Find X3 Pro hide. As soon as it gets darker, you should use the night mode, in which the images are exposed for a few seconds. It ensures significantly brighter and slightly sharper images, which I very much appreciate. I really like the natural colors and the relatively accurate white balance. Only in terms of sharpness do I see OnePlus and OPPO slightly ahead. In conclusion, it can be said that the main camera of the S21 Plus is completely appropriate for the price of 850 euros and that the differences to the Ultra are surprisingly limited.
Except for the lack of autofocus, there are absolutely no differences in the ultra wide-angle camera compared to its bigger brother, which is not surprising because Samsung uses the same sensor here. It takes sufficiently sharp photos with a good dynamic range and colors are reproduced a little more strongly than in reality. When it comes to sharpness, other smartphones such as the OnePlus 9 Pro, OPPO Find X3 Pro or Huawei Mate 40 Pro, partially visibly better. In poor lighting conditions, the quality visibly decreases despite night mode. Every now and then, you can still get useful results, but the images often get too dark and quickly start to rustle. Here, too, OnePlus, OPPO and Huawei are a bit ahead. Nevertheless, on the whole, I am quite satisfied with the ultra-wide-angle camera.
Zoom shots unfortunately lack some details, which is probably due to the fact that the 64 megapixel camera is not really a telephoto lens, but a second main camera that digitally zooms into the image. Even the OnePlus 9 Pro, which only delivers average zoom shots, I like it slightly better in terms of sharpness. Of course, the S21 Ultra plays in a completely different league, especially from 10x magnification. For an RRP of 1.049 euros and also for the current price, I expect more.
Videos in 4K at 30 or 60 FPS look really good in daylight. As soon as it gets dark, however, they are no longer usable and 8K videos are still a gimmick. Recordings with the front camera are particularly impressive with their natural color rendering and good dynamic range, but the sharpness often leaves a lot to be desired.
Let's take a look at a few test photos. The following images are unprocessed, but compressed without loss in order to keep the loading times and memory consumption of the website low.
Comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro
Finally, we want the cameras in different situations with its bigger brother, the S21 Ultra and the similarly priced OnePlus 9 Pro to compare.
The camera comparison shows relatively well that the differences in the main and ultra wide-angle cameras between the Samsung smartphones are very limited, both in good and bad light conditions. Compared to the OnePlus, the Galaxy devices take slightly more saturated shots. However, this tide turns in low light, because Samsung takes visibly more realistic pictures here, whereas OnePlus can score with more details. If we switch to the ultra wide-angle camera, the S21 Plus and Ultra can no longer really compete with the OnePlus 9 Pro keep up, especially in low light. If you would like to zoom with your smartphone, you should not go to the 9th Pro still reach for the S21 Plus. Here both have absolutely no chance against the S21 Ultra, which offers a 10x optical zoom.
Others - speakers, fingerprint sensor and much more
Samsung uses the earpiece as a second speaker, which creates stereo sound. They sound really good and get extremely loud. Samsung is at the forefront here. The built-in vibration motor was also able to convince me across the board. It gives a high-quality feeling in the hand and does not sound annoyingly loud. However, I see OnePlus a little further ahead.
The smartphone can be unlocked using the fingerprint sensor integrated in the display, which is easy to reach. Compared to its predecessor, it is almost twice as large, which makes it easier to hit it with your finger. It reacts extremely quickly and often just a quick tap on the area is enough to unlock the device. There is nothing to complain about when it comes to reliability, but others can keep up very well. For me, the fingerprint sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is currently one of the best on the market.
Unlike the S21 Ultra, there is unfortunately no S-Pen support. So if a pen is important to you, you have to spend a little more money on the Ultra or buy a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Finally, I would like to positively emphasize that the smartphone is protected against the ingress of water and dust according to IP68.
With the Galaxy S21 Plus, Samsung has brought an all-round solid flagship smartphone onto the market, which is particularly impressive with an excellent display, great speakers, future-proof performance, decent battery life and a good main camera. In terms of zoom, display resolution and loading speed, however, you have to cut back on the S21 Ultra and the competition.
Currently, 850 euros have to be put on the table, which is significantly less than the RRP of 1.049 euros. Nevertheless, I still find the price a bit too high, because a OnePlus 9 Pro with a higher display resolution, slightly better cameras, faster loading speeds and an even more pleasant design is currently available for only 800 euros. The battery life is not really convincing here, but due to the points just mentioned and the lower price, I would currently go for the OnePlus 9 Pro to grab.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 should of course not be forgotten either. This costs 700 euros, cannot quite keep up with the cameras in terms of the S21 Plus, but it also offers a strong overall package and is also equipped with the best speakers. However, if you want an even larger smartphone with better zoom, S-Pen support and a slightly better display, you should definitely take 150 euros more and grab the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Due to the current prices and the strong competition, I would wait a little longer before buying the S21 Plus until the price drops below 800 euros. Then you can definitely strike and get a really good smartphone.
We would like to thank Samsung Germany for providing the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus!