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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency

Coming to market in January 2021, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s launch price puts it into the Premium ($600-$799) segment. Like its Exynos twin, it comes with a number of attractive features, including a triple-camera setup. Our team of battery experts recently put it through our DXOMARK testing protocol; what follows is a summary of the results.

Key specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 4000 mAh
  • 25W (charger not included)
  • 6.2-inch, 1080 x 2400, 120 Hz OLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm) chipset
  • Tested RAM / storage combination: 8 GB + 128 GB

About DXOMARK Battery tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone battery reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests over a week-long period both indoors and outdoors. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. (See our introductory and how we test articles for more details about our smartphone Battery protocol.)

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 1Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 2

69

battery

Pros

  • Good efficiency both during charge up and when in use
  • Charger has very low residual power drain both during trickle charging and when phone is not connected
  • Wireless charging is convenient

Cons

  • Below-average charging speed
  • Above-average battery drain when screen is off in idle, music streaming and calls

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) racks up an above-average overall score in its segment, beating its Exynos sibling and doing largely better than the two competitor devices in this review, the Apple iPhone 12 mini and the Google Pixel 5, due primarily to better performance in our autonomy tests. The table below shows the battery capacity, charger, display type and resolution, and processor specifications for the Snapdragon version of the S21 5G and for the Apple and Google devices.

 Samsung Galaxy S21 (Snapdragon)

Apple iPhone 12 miniGoogle Pixel 5
Battery capacity (mAh)

4000

22274080
Charger

25W

20W18W
Wireless charging

15W

12W

12W

Display type, max Hz

OLEDOLED

OLED

Display resolution

1080 x 24001080 x 2340

1080 x 2340

Chipset

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5GA14 Bionic

Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 5G

Autonomy (55)

How long a battery charge lasts depends not only on battery capacity, but also other aspects of the phone’s hardware and software. The DXOMARK Battery autonomy score is composed of three performance sub-scores: (1) Stationary, (2) On the go, and (3) Calibrated use cases. Each sub-score comprises the results of a comprehensive range of tests for measuring autonomy in all kinds of real-life scenarios.

Light Usage

71h

Light

Active: 2h30/day

Moderate Usage

50h

Moderate

Active: 4h/day

Intense Usage

31h

Intense

Active: 7h/day

Among its competitors, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) puts in a good performance, with a score that is above average for its segment, but just under the average for the entire Battery protocol database.

In terms of linearity, the battery percentage indicator on the Samsung S21 5G (Snapdragon) is very accurate and reliable.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 4

Stationary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

57

104

Vivo Y72 5G

Best: Vivo Y72 5G (104)

A robot housed in a Faraday cage performs a set of touch-based user actions during what we call our “typical usage scenario” (TUS) — making calls, video streaming, etc. — 4 hours of active use over the course of a 16-hour period, plus 8 hours of “sleep.” The robot repeats this set of actions every day until the device runs out of power. 

In our TUS tests, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) lasts more than 56 hours, which is both above average for its segment and longer than its rivals, with the Apple iPhone12 mini coming in at 43 hours 22 minutes and the Google Pixel 5 lasting for 47 hours 30 minutes. However, the Samsung’s results are around four hours less than the average for all tested devices in our database.

Typical Usage Scenario discharge curves

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 5

On the go

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

55

96

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (96)

Using a smartphone on the go takes a toll on autonomy because of extra “hidden” demands, such as the continuous signaling associated with cellphone network selection, for example. DXOMARK Battery experts take the phone outside and perform a precisely defined set of activities while following the same three-hour travel itinerary for each device.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s performance is very close to that of its rivals except for calling, where it did noticeably better than the Apple and Google devices (though only around the average for other devices in its price range).

Estimated autonomy for on the go use cases (full charge)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 6

Calibrated

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

58

100

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (100)

For this series of tests, the smartphone returns to the Faraday cage and our robots repeatedly perform actions linked to one specific use case (such as gaming, video streaming, etc.) at a time. Starting from an 80% charge, all devices are tested until they have expended at least 5% of their battery power.

Both the Samsung and Google devices beat the Apple iPhone12 mini across the board, and while the Samsung takes the lead in 4G streaming and gaming tests, the Google Pixel 5 is ahead of the Samsung for 3G calling and video playback.

Estimated autonomy for calibrated use cases (full charge)

Charging (73)

The DXOMARK Battery charging score is composed of two sub-scores, Full charge and Quick boost. Full charge tests assess the reliability of the battery power gauge; measure how long it takes to charge a battery from 0% to 80% capacity and from 80% to 100%; and measure how long and how much power the battery takes to go from an indicated 100% to an actual full charge. With the phone at different charge levels (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%), Quick boost tests measure the amount of charge the battery receives after being plugged in for 5 minutes. 

Wired

Wired

Wireless

Wireless

Power consumption and battery level during full charge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 7

Full charge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

78

106

OnePlus 9

Best: OnePlus 9 (106)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G went from 0 to an 80% in 48 minutes 34 seconds, which is better than its rivals, but it needed more than 45 minutes to charge from 80% to full capacity. Our engineers note that its charger never reached its maximum power of 25W.

While it takes the Snapdragon version of the S21 5G one hour longer to achieve a 100% charge via wireless charging, it is still a convenient option.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 8

Quick boost

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

67

108

Oppo Reno6 5G

Best: Oppo Reno6 5G (108)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) provides more than two hours of autonomy when charged at 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80%, beating both the Apple and Google devices for longevity following a 5-minute charge. Even so, the Samsung’s performance is below average for its segment.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)Apple iPhone 12 miniGoogle Pixel 5
Autonomy boost (hh:mm)20%2:382:432:16
40%2:452:312:16
60%2:091:531:46
80%1:571:201:13
Percentage boost20%7.4 %9.5 %6.9 %
40%7.7 %8.8 %6.9 %
60%6 %6.6 %5.4 %
80%5.5 %4.7 %3.7 %
Energy consumed20%1466 mWh1205 mWh1654 mWh
40%1528 mWh1119 mWh1656 mWh
60%1195 mWh838 mWh1294 mWh
80%1088 mWh591 mWh894 mWh

Efficiency (89)

Our Efficiency score comprises two sub-scores, Charge up and Discharge. Charge up is the efficiency of a full charge (how much energy is drained from the wall outlet vs the energy capacity of the battery, as well as the efficiency of the charger and its residual consumption). Discharge is how much current the smartphone drains from the battery when in use (the ratio of battery capacity to autonomy). Better autonomy with a smaller battery means better efficiency.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 9

Charge up

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

78

84

OnePlus 9

Best: OnePlus 9 (84)

Compared to its rivals, the S21 5G (Snapdragon) charging system is well designed, providing better charge and adapter efficiency, and better management of residual power drain.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 10

Discharge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

90

121

Apple iPhone 13

Best: Apple iPhone 13 (121)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) had good efficiency in all screen-on tests (gaming, video streaming, video playback), though the iPhone 12 mini is much more efficient, and can last almost as long with a much smaller 2227 mAh battery.

Conclusion

The Samsung S21 5G (Snapdragon) achieves decent autonomy overall, but it would have been nice to pair that with faster charging, which is quite common at this price range.

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Can the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s Camera Beat the iPhone 13 Pro’s?

Can the Galaxy S21 Ultra's Camera Beat the iPhone 13 Pro's?

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the best camera Samsung has made yet, and it remains one of our favorite camera phones. Its biggest rival for the crown of “best camera on a smartphone,” the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, has now been replaced in the range by the iPhone 13 Pro, making it essential to put the two cameras up against each other.

Samsung’s hard work paid off on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but will it now have to play catch-up to Apple’s newer iPhone? The 13 Pro’s camera has generated plenty of hype, but as you’ll see, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is not only still a winner, it has the new iPhone beaten in several important areas.

The cameras and the test

All photos taken for this comparison were shot over the course of a single day, with all using the standard Photo mode on both phones, and without any editing afterward. Do be aware the photos have been resized to make them suitable for viewing online. Before they were resized, the photos were compared on a color-calibrated monitor.

The iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra held in hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro has three 12-megapixel cameras providing 120-degree field-of-view wide-angle and 3x telephoto optical zoom features. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 108MP main camera, a 12MP wide-angle, a 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom photos, and a 10MP periscope camera with 10x optical zoom. We have not tested video for this comparison.

The seat in the sun

We’ll start off with a standard photo — a countryside scene with blue sky and lots of greenery. It’s the kind of photo you expect to come out well, almost regardless of the camera, and sure enough, both are great. The photos set the tone for the remainder of the images, with the iPhone 13 Pro showing deeper blues, brighter greens, and more shadows compared to the S21 Ultra.

What’s interesting is the iPhone 13 Pro’s approach isn’t always successful later on, as we’ll see in other photos, but it does work well here. The white flowers are brighter than in the S21 Ultra’s photo, the seat is more of a focal point due to less shading, and the sky is more atmospheric. However, the S21 Ultra’s photo just shows a different interpretation, rather than being technically superior or inferior.

Winner: Draw

Bread and cheese

I took several photos herem and in all of them, the Galaxy S21 Ultra seemed to not understand where to focus. I didn’t use tap to focus on either phone, yet the iPhone 13 Pro captured the bread in sharp detail, while the S21 Ultra seemed to favor the cheese and the knife. The sharpness continues in the iPhone’s photo, with more detail and depth to the color, while there’s grain evident on the plate in the S21 Ultra’s photo.

The iPhone’s warm tones really suit this photo, giving the bread an appetizing, natural look, compared to the slightly out-of-focus, saturated image taken by the S21 Ultra. The beautiful, subtle depth of field in the iPhone’s photo just finishes it off perfectly.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

Mini Countryman in the sun

The sun was behind me when I took this photo, and the Mini Countryman’s white-and-black color scheme often shows any issues with white balance quite well. Here, it shows the different exposures favored by each camera, and the iPhone 13 Pro’s tendency to hide detail in shadow.

Interestingly, the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo looks like a Samsung photo from a few years ago, with the saturated sky and deep shadows in the wheel arches hiding any detail on the rims. The S21 Ultra balances the scene more effectively, showing detail on the car and its glass, while even revealing more detail inside the vehicle. The trade-off is a lighter blue sky. Neither is an amazing photo, but the S21 Ultra’s greater detail makes it the one most people would likely pick to share with the minimum of editing.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Tree and sky, in wide-angle

In this wide-angle photo, both cameras show evidence of edge enhancement around the tree’s branches, but it’s less obvious at first glance in the S21 Ultra’s photo due to the way it has handled the blue sky and white clouds. The darker areas in the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo give it a more artificial look compared to the brighter, more energetic scene in the S21 Ultra’s photo.

Edge distortion is more noticeable in the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo as well, particularly in the shadows on the ground under the tree on the right-hand side of the picture. The blue sky in the iPhone’s photo is lovely, but the overall balance of the S21 Ultra’s photo makes it the one I’d share.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Wooden roof with 3x zoom

Like with the photo of the bread, the S21 Ultra has once again made an executive decision to focus mostly on the piece of wood closest to it, leaving the rest of the structure blurred out in a slightly odd way. Zoom in and there’s some very obvious haloing around the wood in the background and on the edge of the stone roof against the blue sky.

The iPhone has avoided all this, and although it does focus on the wood nearest to the camera, it’s nowhere near as tightly. There’s no evidence of haloing, and the colors are warm and balanced. The saturated blue sky works here, too. It’s the more visually attractive photo due to the focusing, which is a little unfortunate when the S21 Ultra revealed more detail.

It’s also worth mentioning the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s super 10x optical zoom, which the iPhone 13 Pro cannot compete with, and therefore wasn’t tested here. It’s a really excellent additional feature on the S21 Ultra.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

Butterfly in macro

Both the iPhone 13 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Ultra have an automatic macro photo mode that uses the wide-angle camera. Get in close to a subject and it activates itself. The butterfly proved to be a willing model and stayed around for me to take multiple photos with both phones, all with macro mode active.

The level of detail is impressive in both photos, even after zooming in on the image, with the most obvious difference being the color of the butterfly. It was the iPhone 13 Pro that captured its colors most accurately, with the orange in the S21 Ultra’s photo being just that bit too bright, but both are really impressive photos for a smartphone. The iPhone’s tendency to increase shadow worked to the image’s favor for once, producing lush greens as well.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

Leaf and saw in portrait mode

Both of these sets of photos were taken with the respective Portrait mode. Looking at the photo of the rusty saw first, the iPhone 13 Pro has captured the texture and patina far more effectively than the S21 Ultra. Both have done a similar job of separating the teeth from the background, and keeping a degree of the foreground in focus, too.

In the leaf photo, the edge recognition is less effective, although the colors and texture are good in both. This also shows that both phones struggle with identifying complicated shapes using Portrait mode, and how both prefer the simple shape of the saw.

I wouldn’t choose either of the leaf pictures to share, but would take the iPhone 13 Pro over the S21 Ultra for the saw, giving it the win here. However, both are pretty close.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro

Night mode

This photo was taken inside, late at night, with a dim backlight from another room. Both phones activated night mode, which happens automatically and took about two seconds to take the image. The results are very different, with the Galaxy S21 Ultra trouncing the iPhone 13 Pro.

From the white balance to the detail in the carpet, and the sharp, detailed face of the cute cat-shaped doorstop, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s picture does well because it effectively captures the subject of the image. The iPhone’s photo doesn’t have as much artificial sharpening, and does have some lovely shadows in the background, but it’s not the photo anyone would share.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Conclusion

The iPhone 13 Pro won four categories, the S21 Ultra won three, and there was one draw, giving the iPhone 13 Pro the overall win. It’s not what I’d call a washout though. While the S21 Ultra’s focusing issues let it down in two of the photos, it also took the most decisive win in a single category by handily beating the iPhone 13 Pro in the lowlight test, and came very close to making the macro and Portrait mode shots a draw.

What does this mean to you? If you’re undecided between buying an S21 Ultra or an iPhone, the good news is you’re going to get a brilliant camera regardless of which one you buy. However, do consider some of the additional features before making your decision. The S21 Ultra’s 10x optical zoom adds a really fun additional dimension to the camera, and for me, Samsung’s unusual Single Take mode will be more useful to more people than the iPhone 13 Pro’s Cinematic video mode.

Despite it sounding a bit like it, I’m not trying to take away the iPhone 13 Pro’s win. What I want to do is illustrate how the camera still needs work. I recently put the iPhone 13 Pro up against the iPhone 12 Pro in a similar comparison, and the older iPhone came out on top, meaning the iPhone 13 hasn’t killed it in either test. I do think there’s a ton of potential, but some work needs to be done on the software to optimize its performance.

For now, although the iPhone 13 Pro won, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is right on its tail.

Editors’ Recommendations




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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency

Released in January 2021 at a price that places it in the Premium segment ($600-$799), the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) comes with a triple-camera setup and stereo speakers, among other attractive features. Let’s take a look at how its battery performed in our DXOMARK Battery protocol tests.

Key specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 4000 mAh
  • 25W (charger not included)
  • 6.2-inch, 1080 x 2400, 120 Hz OLED display
  • Exynos 2100 (5 nm) chipset
  • Tested RAM / storage combination: 8 GB + 128 GB

About DXOMARK Battery tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone battery reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests over a week-long period both indoors and outdoors. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. (See our introductory and how we test articles for more details about our smartphone Battery protocol.)

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 11Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 12

63

battery

Pros

  • Decent efficiency, especially charge up
  • Supports wireless charging

Cons

  • Despite smaller battery, slower charging speed than competition

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) smartphone comes with a smaller battery and a slower charger than the two Premium devices used for comparison in this review, the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the Oppo Find X3 Neo. The table below shows the battery capacity, charger, display type and resolution, and processor specifications for the three devices.

 Samsung Galaxy S21 (Exynos)

Xiaomi Mi 11Oppo Find X3 Neo
Battery capacity (mAh)

4000

46004500
Charger

25W

55W65W
Wireless charging

15W

50W

No

Display type, max Hz

OLEDOLED

OLED

Display resolution

1080 x 24001440 x 3200

1080 x 2400

Chipset

Exynos 2100Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G

Autonomy (51)

How long a battery charge lasts depends not only on battery capacity, but also other aspects of the phone’s hardware and software. The DXOMARK Battery autonomy score is composed of three performance sub-scores: (1) Stationary, (2) On the go, and (3) Calibrated use cases. Each sub-score comprises the results of a comprehensive range of tests for measuring autonomy in all kinds of real-life scenarios.

Light Usage

65h

Light

Active: 2h30/day

Moderate Usage

46h

Moderate

Active: 4h/day

Intense Usage

29h

Intense

Active: 7h/day

The overall autonomy score for the Exynos version of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G places it between the Xiaomi Mi 11 (36) and the Oppo Find X3 Neo (60). The Samsung provides relatively good autonomy despite its small 4000 mAh battery, while the Xiaomi struggles with a more power-consuming QHD+ display.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 14

Stationary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

54

104

Vivo Y72 5G

Best: Vivo Y72 5G (104)

A robot housed in a Faraday cage performs a set of touch-based user actions during what we call our “typical usage scenario” (TUS) — making calls, video streaming, etc. — 4 hours of active use over the course of a 16-hour period, plus 8 hours of “sleep.” The robot repeats this set of actions every day until the device runs out of power. 

Lasting 51 hours 27 minutes in our TUS tests, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) lands in the bottom quarter of the DXOMARK database. While it is still ahead of the Xiaomi Mi 11, the Oppo lasts 7 hours 30 minutes longer.

Typical Usage Scenario discharge curves

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 15

On the go

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

54

96

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (96)

Using a smartphone on the go takes a toll on autonomy because of extra “hidden” demands, such as the continuous signaling associated with cellphone network selection, for example. DXOMARK Battery experts take the phone outside and perform a precisely defined set of activities while following the same three-hour travel itinerary for each device.

The Samsung device goes head to head with the Oppo Find X3 Neo in all mobility use cases, and both the Samsung and the Oppo perform slightly better than the Xiaomi Mi 11.

Estimated autonomy for on the go use cases (full charge)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 16

Calibrated

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

52

100

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (100)

For this series of tests, the smartphone returns to the Faraday cage and our robots repeatedly perform actions linked to one specific use case (such as gaming, video streaming, etc.) at a time. Starting from an 80% charge, all devices are tested until they have expended at least 5% of their battery power.

While the performance of the Exynos version of the Galaxy S21 5G for gaming and for video and music streaming via 4G was disappointing, the device did a good job for both video streaming via WiFi and video playback. But the Oppo Find X3 Neo had better autonomy in all calibrated use cases.

Estimated autonomy for calibrated use cases (full charge)

Charging (73)

The DXOMARK Battery charging score is composed of two sub-scores, Full charge and Quick boost. Full charge tests assess the reliability of the battery power gauge; measure how long it takes to charge a battery from 0% to 80% capacity and from 80% to 100%; and measure how long and how much power the battery takes to go from an indicated 100% to an actual full charge. With the phone at different charge levels (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%), Quick boost tests measure the amount of charge the battery receives after being plugged in for 5 minutes. 

Wired

Wired

Wireless

Wireless

The S21 5G (Exynos)’s charging performance is average among all devices tested, but its rivals do better, especially the Oppo Find X3 Neo, one of the top scorers for this attribute to date.

Power consumption and battery level during full charge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 17

Full charge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

75

104

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Best: Oppo Find X3 Pro (104)

It takes the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) 48 minutes to go from 0 to an 80% charge, which is good. However, the Xiaomi Mi 11 takes just 30 minutes to achieve the same charge, and the Find X3 Neo takes even less time — only 23 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 18

Quick boost

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

66

95

Oppo Find X3 Neo

Best: Oppo Find X3 Neo (95)

Users can expect only 2 hours 30 minutes of additional battery life after charging the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) for 5 minutes with 20% power remaining, which is a poor showing when compared to the Oppo Find X3 Neo in particular.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)Xiaomi Mi 11Oppo Find X3 Neo
Autonomy boost (hh:mm)20%2:332:528:20
40%2:363:096:26
60%2:052:545:29
80%2:011:514:14
Percentage boost20%7.4 %11.2 %22.1 %
40%7.6 %12.3 %17 %
60%6.1 %11.3 %14.5 %
80%5.9 %7.3 %11.2 %
Energy consumed20%1458 mWh2674 mWh4712 mWh
40%1487 mWh2945 mWh3637 mWh
60%1192 mWh2709 mWh3103 mWh
80%1148 mWh1735 mWh2399 mWh

Efficiency (75)

Our Efficiency score comprises two sub-scores, Charge up and Discharge. Charge up is the efficiency of a full charge (how much energy is drained from the wall outlet vs the energy capacity of the battery, as well as the efficiency of the charger and its residual consumption). Discharge is how much current the smartphone drains from the battery when in use (the ratio of battery capacity to autonomy). Better autonomy with a smaller battery means better efficiency.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) posts an average overall score in our Efficiency testing. Among its rivals, it is far ahead of the Xiaomi (46) but behind the Oppo (87).

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 19

Charge up

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

79

82

Oppo Find X3 Neo

Best: Oppo Find X3 Neo (82)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)’s adapter is very efficient and consumes almost nothing (just 11 mW) when the phone is detached. By contrast, however, users should unplug the Samsung’s wireless charger when not in use.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Battery review: Good charge-up efficiency 20

Discharge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

73

121

Apple iPhone 12 mini

Best: Apple iPhone 12 mini (121)

The Samsung device lands between the Xiaomi (46) and the Oppo (85) for discharge efficiency, and despite its relatively small battery capacity (4000 mAh), it offers decent autonomy.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) is a well-built device, which is reflected in its decent scores for efficiency. While it lands in the bottom half of our database among all devices tested to date, it is well within the norms for Premium segment devices. The Xiaomi and Oppo smartphones have much better charging times compared to the S21 5G, but the Samsung device’s charging is nonetheless very efficient.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) has been selling in the U.S. and China (and a few other places) since January 2021 and is the near-identical twin of the S21 Ultra (Exynos) version sold in other parts of the world. Both share the same high-end specs, including the same quad-camera setup and stylus support; the only difference in hardware between the two versions is in the processors they use: the U.S./China-oriented model relies on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, while Samsung uses its own Exynos 2100 in the model sold elsewhere. Because of their close similarities in performance, this review will mostly focus on the very few differences between the two versions in our comprehensive Display protocol testing. (For more complete performance results, please refer to our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) review.)

Key display specifications:

  • AMOLED 2x screen with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
  • Size: 6.8 inches (89.8% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm (6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches)
  • Resolution: 1440 x 3200 pixels
  • Aspect ratio: 20:9, ~515 ppi
  • Refresh rate: 120 Hz

About DXOMARK Display tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone and other display reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective and perceptual tests under controlled lab and real-life conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate display attributes using only the device’s built-in display hardware and its still image (gallery) and video apps at their default settings. (For in-depth information about how we evaluate smartphone and other displays, check out our articles, “How DXOMARK tests display quality” and “A closer look at DXOMARK Display testing.”)

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 21Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 22

91

display

Pros

  • Well-balanced brightness and accurate colors lead to a satisfying experience when watching HD10 videos.
  • Well-adapted luminance levels and high maximum brightness mean very good readability in most conditions.
  • The device has great smoothness when web browsing and in the gallery app.
  • The device manages frame drops well when watching videos.

Cons

  • Color faithfulness deteriorates under very bright outdoor conditions, particularly under sunlight.
  • The device is inaccurate when zooming in the gallery app and does not correctly detect touches along its edges when playing video games.
  • Still image colors are generally too saturated.
  • Slightly dazzling in dark ambient conditions, and the BLF does not filter out enough blue light under any lighting condition.

With almost entirely identical scores across all attributes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) joins its Exynos twin in joint first place (as of this writing) in our DXOMARK Display rankings.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 24

Readability

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

74

Highest Score

Achieving an excellent score of 74, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) is currently in a three-way tie for first with Exynos version and the TCL 10 Pro. It has good readability at its default settings; however, the both S21 Ultra devices are somewhat dazzling in low-light conditions, which may make viewing a bit uncomfortable for some users.

Indoors, the device’s brightness ensures that most content is easily readable, but darker tones lack detail. Despite its high luminance outdoors, the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) lacks readability, especially for darker content. The Snapdragon-powered smartphone adapts smoothly to light transitions but the rendering changes abruptly when moving from sunlight to shade. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) loses brightness when viewed in angle. As you can see in the array below, the Exynos version (second from left) is noticeably brighter:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 25

Brightness at a 45° angle, from left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), Apple iPhone 12 Pro, Vivo X51 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Brightness vs Angle comparison

The objective measurements in the graph above confirm the perceptual results between the two Samsung devices.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 26

Color

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

82

89

TCL 20 Pro 5G

Best: TCL 20 Pro 5G (89)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) shows oversaturated colors along with some slight pink casts on most contents. In bright sunlight, colors are strongly oversaturated and color nuances disappear, leading to inaccurate rendering:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 27

Color rendering in direct sunlight, from left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), Apple iPhone 12 Pro, Vivo X51 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 28

Video

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

90

Highest Score

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) has the same score as the Exynos version. Both devices offer excellent levels of brightness and color fidelity when watching HDR10 content. As for differences between the two models, as shown in the illustrative photo array below, the Exynos version’s rendering is just slightly more vivid and closer to the reference image rendering than the Snapdragon’s.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 29

Video color, from left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), Apple iPhone 12 Pro, Vivo X51 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 30

Motion

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

77

87

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (87)

At 77 points apiece, both versions of the S21 Ultra 5G trail behind the class-leading Huawei P40 Pro at 87, with both showing some frame duplications and regular stuttering while playing video games, along with some hesitation in playback reactivity when rewinding or fast-forwarding videos.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 31

Touch

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

55

83

OnePlus 9 Pro

Best: OnePlus 9 Pro (83)

The Samsung devices’ lackluster results for motion are far overshadowed by their disappointing performance for touch, as both showed inaccuracies when using with fingers (though good with the S Pen stylus). Further, although they were very smooth in the gallery app and when web browsing, there was a perceptible lack of fluidity when gaming.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 32

Artifacts

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

79

84

LG Wing

Best: LG Wing (84)

Artifacts is the only category in which the two S21 Ultra 5G models earned different scores, with the Snapdragon version bettering the Exynos by one point.

Both devices have problems with ghost touches in landscape mode, and noticeable flicker in dark ambient viewing conditions.

That all said, the Snapdragon version of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G handles aliasing somewhat better than its Exynos twin, although neither device’s rendering would win it any plaudits from the gaming community:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 33

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), aliasing closeup

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 34

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), aliasing closeup

Conclusion

The Snapdragon and Exynos versions of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G are very similar, though the Snapdragon shows slightly better performance in handling artifacts. Overall, both show the same strengths and weaknesses: because of touch performance and aliasing, for example, neither model would be the first choice for serious gamers, but otherwise these latest Samsung twins come with a great display, especially for watching videos. (For more complete performance results, see our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) review.)

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Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review

Samsung’s Galaxy S21+ 5G is the middle seat of the company’s current high-end S21 series, squeezed between the slightly smaller S21 5G and the top-of-the-line S21 Ultra 5G. It sports a 120 Hz, 6.7-inch AMOLED screen, slightly larger than its sibling S21, but with the same resolution (2400 x 1080), and has a centered hole punch for the selfie camera. Here we are testing the US and China version, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset, as opposed to the Exynos version available in the rest of the world. Both have 8 GB memory with either 128 GB or 256 GB storage.

There are three cameras on the back, with specs that exactly mirror the smaller S21. The primary camera has a 12 MP coupled with a 26 mm-equivalent optically stabilized lens. The ultra-wide offers 12 MP and has a 13 mm-equivalent lens. The tele camera used a wide-angle lens (29 mm-equivalent) but uses a 64 MP sensor, which gets binned down to 12 MP output.

The Galaxy S21+ 5G shoots video at up to 8K resolution at 24 fps; however, just like on the S21 Ultra and the standard S21 we used 4K and 60 fps for testing. Lower resolutions and higher frame rates are also available for recording in slow motion.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 12 MP 1/1.76-inch sensor with 1.8 μm pixels, 26 mm-equivalent f/1.8 lens, dual-pixel PDAF, OIS
  • Ultra-wide: 12 MP sensor with 1.4μm pixels, 13 mm-equivalent f/2.2 lens
  • Tele: 64 MP 1/1.72-inch sensor with 0.8μm pixels, 29 mm-equivalent f/2.0 lens
  • LED flash
  • 8K at 24 fps, 4K at 60 fps (tested), HDR10+

Achieving an overall score of 119, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon) captures almost identical image quality to the more diminutive S21 5G (Snapdragon); no surprise as the two models share the same camera hardware. We couldn’t get a cigarette paper between them in our analysis, so if you want to save a few bucks and can live with a smaller screen and lower capacity battery, the standard S21 5G (Snapdragon) is just as good for photography.

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review 35

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), neutral white balance and pleasant color rendering

Given the almost identical results, we are posting only this short article for the Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon). For a full set of sample images and measurements as well as a complete analysis, please click on the link below and read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon).

Go to the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review 36
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review 37

119

camera

Pros

  • Neutral white balance and pleasant color rendering in most photos and videos
  • Accurate target exposure in most photos
  • High detail in outdoor and indoor photos and videos
  • Pleasant bokeh photos with mainly accurate depth estimation
  • Very wide field of view on ultra-wide shots
  • Effective stabilization on walking videos
  • Good white balance and color rendering on indoor and outdoor videos
  • Accurate autofocus on most videos

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus

Featuring the latest high-end Snapdragon 888 chipset, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) is the variant of Samsung’s 2021 flagship available in the US and China. Processor aside, other hardware specs are identical with the Exynos version that’s on sale in the rest of the world, including a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with 3200 x 1440 resolution and flexible frame rates up to 120 Hz. Both versions offer S-Pen stylus support and a rear camera with wide, ultra-wide and two tele-lens modules.

The front-facing selfie camera isn’t quite as sophisticated, but it still has a few neat tricks up its sleeve. The single 40 MP Quad Bayer sensor pixel bins down to a 10 MP output when multiple faces are detected, but the device will automatically zoom in on single-person selfies to ensure they fill the frame. This digital zoom solution results in a lower resolution 6.5 MP final output. The f/2.2-aperture 80˚ field of view lens offers Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF), which still isn’t very common on selfie cameras, and can help ensure faces at different distances retain good detail.

In video mode the front camera offers high resolution 4K capture at either 30 fps or 60 fps. Read on to see how the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) performs under the DXOMARK Selfie test protocol.

Key front camera specifications:

  • 40 MP sensor with 0.7µm pixel size (10MP 1.4µm)
  • 80˚ field of view lens with f/2.2-aperture
  • PDAF autofocus
  • Fixed focus
  • 4K video at 30/60fps (30fps tested)

About DXOMARK Selfie tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone front camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 1500 test images and more than 2 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Selfie test protocol, click here. 

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 39
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 40

99

selfie

Pros

  • Accurate and stable white balance in most photos and videos
  • Wide dynamic range in HDR photos and videos
  • Pleasant skin tone rendering in most photos and videos
  • Well-preserved detail in indoor and outdoor photos and videos
  • Generally accurate autofocus in videos with wide depth of field in photos

Cons

  • Visible noise in all photos
  • Face exposure occasionally low in some photos and videos
  • Abrupt blur gradient in bokeh photos
  • Low detail in low light videos
  • Visible lens shading in flash photos
  • Jello and residual motion visible in walking videos

With a DXOMARK Selfie overall score of 99, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) just makes the top ten in our selfie camera rankings, a point behind last year’s Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (Exynos) on 100.

A Photo sub score of 104 for the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) also matches the result achieved by all variants of the S20 and Note20 Ultra, and is only a few points behind our current top device for selfies – the Huawei Mate 40 Pro on 110.

The S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) drops down the rankings a little for front camera video however. Its Video score of 91 is 4 points behind the S20 and Note20 Ultra’s on 95 and a couple of points away from key competitors such as the iPhone 12 Pro and Google Pixel 5.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 42

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) selfie images capture accurate white balance with pleasant skin tone rendering, fairly extended dynamic range on HDR scenes, and wide depth of field ensures faces at different distances from the camera retain good detail.

In our analysis, photos from the front camera produce accurate white balance with natural-looking skin tones in most cases, and dynamic range is fairly wide in high contrast scenes. Texture rendering is also excellent, with fine facial details very well preserved, although at the expense of some luminance noise, which is visible in all images.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), outdoor scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 44

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), crop; excellent detail with some noise

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), outdoor scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 46

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), crop; good detail with some noise

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, outdoor scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 48

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, crop; slightly lower detail with some noise

There are some other minor drawbacks with perhaps the most obvious being the slightly low target exposures in some conditions. You can see in the example below, that while the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) retains good highlight detail in the clouds and sky on this backlit selfie, the subject’s face is exposed better on the Apple iPhone 12 Pro and S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) examples. Micro contrast is often better on the Snapdragon version, however, which renders slightly more natural-looking results in HDR scenes compared to the Exynos equivalent.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 49

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), backlit HDR scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 50

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), backlit HDR scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 51

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, backlit HDR scene

Accurate and reliable autofocus ensures the target face is always in sharp focus, and we observed no serious failures during our analysis. Texture rendering is generally very good too. Particularly in outdoor and indoor selfies, the level of fine detail in faces is high and similar to results from the Exynos version. As mentioned, depth of field is also fairly extended generally, but when single faces are very close to the camera at around 30cm, the level of background detail isn’t quite as good as devices like the iPhone 12 Pro.

Other areas for improvement include luminance noise, which is visible in all S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) selfies, and more ringing artifacts are noticeable on the Snapdragon version compared with the Exynos. When using the device’s screen flash in very dark conditions, strong lens shading produces dark corners. Flash results are comparable to the Exynos version, however, and both devices provide accurate exposure on faces towards the center of the frame, with nice skin tone rendering, to ensure the subject is well represented.

In portrait mode, bokeh shots from the front camera are very comparable between the Snapdragon and Exynos versions. Very slight improvements to depth estimation were noted by our testers, but the same abrupt changes in the gradient between the sharp and blurred areas remain evident.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 52

The simulated bokeh effect in portrait mode is effective, with the Snapdragon version producing similar results to the Exynos. Slight depth estimation artifacts are visible, however, and the blur gradient transition is a little more abrupt than we see on the best front cameras for bokeh.

Tested at 4K/30 frames per second, front camera video on the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) displays similar strengths and weaknesses to its stills performance. Video exposure is good, with generally wide dynamic range doing a good job of preserving highlight detail, although low target exposures on faces in bright conditions remain evident and slight exposure instabilities do occur.

Details are well preserved in most videos too, and although things get a little softer in low light conditions you won’t have too many complaints. Noise is also managed a little better is videos compared to stills. Under indoor and low light conditions a little temporal noise is evident, but its fine grain structure ensures is far from offensive and outdoor videos are rendered fairly clean.

The accurate white balance and pleasant skin tones we noted with stills continues, with particularly good color rendering on outdoor and indoor videos from the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon). Autofocus performance is accurate and stable in outdoor videos too. It’s not quite as good in indoor or low light conditions; where occasional instabilities and out-of-focus movies were observed, and depth of field in videos isn’t quite as extended as we saw in the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)’s stills. Artifacts such as color quantization, flare and anamorphosis are sometimes visible too, and some jello and residual motion effects persist in video captured while walking.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) outdoor video

Conclusion

Boasting an automatic digital zoom for single-person selfies with a wider field of view for group shots, as well as an autofocus lens, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) offers the kind of well spec’d front camera you would expect from a top-end flagship.

Results for both photos and video are good, and for the most part the device delivers wide dynamic range, nice color, high detail and accurate autofocus across front camera stills and videos. There’s no noticeable improvement over the S20 models, while the results between the Exynos version, as well as key competitors including Apple and Google flagships, are comparable. Despite some minor drawbacks, including low-face exposures in bright backlit conditions, visible noise, and abrupt blur transitions in bokeh shots, most users will be content with selfies from the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon).

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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 5G is the least expensive of the company’s current high-end S21 series. Here we examine the version based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset, which is sold in the US and China (we’ve previously reviewed the global version, powered by Samsung’s own Exynos chip).

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) features a 120 Hz 6.2-inch AMOLED screen with a hole punch for the selfie camera. It has 8 GB of memory with either 128 or 256 GB of storage. There are three cameras on the back; the main wide and ultra-wide modules have 12 MP sensors. The tele camera starts quite wide (76˚ field of view) but uses its 64 MP sensor to retain detail while zooming in, with the output binned down to 12 MP.

Read on to find out how the S21 5G (Snapdragon) performs in our DXOMARK Camera tests.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 12 MP 1/1.76″ sensor, 1.8μm pixels, f/1.8 lens with 79˚ field of view, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
  • Ultra-wide:12 MP sensor, 1.4μm pixels, 120˚ field of view, f/2.2 lens
  • Tele: 64 MP 1/1.72-inch sensor, 0.8μm pixels, 76˚ field of view, f/2.0 lens
  • LED flash
  • 8K at 24 fps, 4K at 60 fps (tested), HDR10+

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 53
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 54

119

camera

Pros

  • Fairly neutral white balance and accurate color rendering in stills and video
  • Stills exposure accurate in bright to moderate light
  • Detail is high in stills and video in bright to moderate light
  • Mostly accurate depth estimation in portrait mode, natural blur effect
  • Ultra-wide field of view very wide
  • Stabilization works well when walking
  • Video autofocus usually accurate

Cons

  • Autofocus failures and instability in photo mode
  • Luminance and chroma noise often visible in stills
  • Limited dynamic range in backlit portrait scenes
  • Hue shift, color quantization, flare, color fringing, aliasing, moiré, ringing artifacts (especially in videos)
  • Poor image quality at medium and long zoom ratios, low detail and visible noise
  • Noise usually visible in videos in moderate to low light

With an overall score of 119, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) falls a bit short of the top-ranked phones in our database but is competitive with devices in the Premium ($600-799) price segment. Apple’s iPhone 12 outscores it by just a few points (122), while the global (Exynos) version of the S21 comes in a few points lower (116).

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 56

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) has particularly accurate white balance, with nicely rendered colors under a variety of conditions.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) main camera captures generally pleasing photos under most conditions. Color is particularly accurate. Its photo score of 124 is not bad for its price class but there are devices that outscore it, such as the iPhone 12 (132). Issues with autofocus reliability, noise, and limited dynamic range hold the score down.

The Zoom composite score of 73 is respectable, though it’s far from the best-scoring phones in our ranking: wide performance is very good, but the tele end of the zoom is less impressive. The video score of 101 is acceptable but a bit a lackluster compared to the better performers in its class (such as the iPhone 12, which scores 112) .

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) is broadly competitive with other phones in its price category and delivers generally satisfying imaging performance, but it doesn’t push the limits of what a phone in its class can do.

Below you can find detailed analyses and image samples for all Photo, Zoom, and Video sub-attributes, along with comparisons with one of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s competitors, the Apple iPhone 12, and with the international version Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos).

Photo

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) achieves a Photo score of 124. In this section, we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against competitors.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 57

Exposure and Contrast

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

83

109

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (109)

In these tests we analyze target exposure, contrast, and dynamic range, including repeatability across a series of images. Tests are undertaken in a wide range of light conditions, including backlit scenes and low light down to 1 lux. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s exposure performance in backlit conditions compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 58
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), highlight clipping
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 59

Apple iPhone 12, highlight and shadow clipping

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 60

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), highlight clipping

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 61

Color

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

102

105

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (105)

In these tests we analyze color rendering, skin tones, white balance, and color shading, including repeatability across a series of images. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s color performance in outdoor light compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 62

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), accurate white balance, pleasant skin tones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 63

Apple iPhone 12, slightly less saturated color

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 64

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), accurate white balance, pleasant skin tones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 65

Autofocus

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

90

109

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (109)

In these tests we analyze autofocus accuracy and shooting time, including repeatability, in the lab. We test focus failures, depth of field, and tracking of moving subjects using perceptual analysis of real-life images.

This graph shows autofocus performance of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) in outdoor 1000 lux light compared to two competitors.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 66
AF speed and accuracy at 1000 lux, 2 EV brightness range: Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) is slower than comparison phones.
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 67

Texture

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

95

111

Xiaomi Mi 11

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 (111)

In these tests we analyze texture on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s texture performance in outdoor light compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 69

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 71

Apple iPhone 12, crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 73

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), crop: good detail

This graph shows the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s texture measurements in the lab.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 74

Texture comparison: good texture across all light levels

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 75

Noise

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

71

99

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (99)

In these tests we analyze noise on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s noise performance in low light compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), low light

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 77

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), crop: good detail

Apple iPhone 12, low light

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 79

Apple iPhone 12, crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), low light

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 81

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 82

Bokeh

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

70

75

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (75)

For these tests we switch to the camera’s bokeh or portrait mode and analyze depth estimation, bokeh shape, blur gradient, and repeatability, as well as all other general image quality attributes mentioned above. The score is derived from perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s bokeh simulation in daylight compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 83

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), good subject separation, natural blur

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 84

Apple iPhone 12, more depth-sensing errors, less natural blur, green color cast

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 85

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), good subject separation, natural blur

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 86

Night

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

59

82

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (82)

In these tests we shoot a selection of images in pitch-black darkness as well as with city lights in the background providing some illumination. We shoot sample images with the camera at default settings in both flash-auto and flash-off modes. We analyze all image quality attributes but we pay particular attention to exposure, autofocus, and color. We do not test night modes that have to be activated manually.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s night performance in flash-auto mode compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 87
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), flash-auto: unnatural skin tone with flash
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 88

Apple iPhone 12, flash-auto: good exposure, natural color

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 89

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), flash-auto: good target exposure, better skin tone

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 90

Artifacts

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

63

75

Google Pixel 4

Best: Google Pixel 4 (75)

In these tests we check images for optical artifacts such as vignetting, flare, lens softness in the corner, distortion, and chromatic aberrations, as well as for processing artifacts such as ghosting and fusion errors, hue shift, and ringing.

This sample shows hue shift, color fringing, aliasing, and maze and moiré artifacts.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), artifacts

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 92

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), crop: hue shift, color fringing

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 93

Preview

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

60

77

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (77)

In these tests we analyze the image quality of the preview image and the differences between preview images and captured images, particularly in terms of exposure, dynamic range, and bokeh effect. We also check the smoothness of the field-of-view changes in the preview image when zooming with both buttons or when using the pinch-zoom gesture.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s preview performance in portrait mode.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 94

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), preview: clipped highlights

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 95

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), final image: greater dynamic range than in preview

Zoom

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) achieves a Zoom score of 73. The Zoom score includes the tele and wide sub-scores. In this section, we take a closer look at how these sub-scores were achieved and compare zoom image quality against competitors.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 96

Wide

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

46

54

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (54)

In these tests we analyze the performance of the ultra-wide camera at several focal lengths from 12 to 20 mm. We look at all image quality attributes, but we pay particular attention to such artifacts as chromatic aberrations, lens softness, and distortion.

These samples show the performance of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s ultra-wide camera in outdoor conditions compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 97

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), ultra-wide: very wide field of view

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 98

Apple iPhone 12, ultra-wide: very wide field of view

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 99

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), ultra-wide: very wide field of view

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 100

Tele

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

91

133

Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra (133)

In these tests we analyze all image quality attributes at focal lengths from approximately 40 to 300 mm, paying particular attention to texture and detail. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s and its competitors’ tele performance outdoors at a 90 mm-equivalent zoom setting.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), 90 mm zoom

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 102

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), crop: reduced detail

Apple iPhone 12, 90 mm zoom

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 104

Apple iPhone 12, crop: very low detail, underexposure

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), 90 mm zoom

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 106

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), crop: better detail

Video

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) achieves a Video score of 101. A device’s overall Video score is derived from its performance and results across a range of attributes in the same way as the Photo score. In this section, we take a closer look at these sub-scores and compare video quality against competitors.

In our Video tests we analyze the same image quality attributes as for still images, such as white balance and color rendering, but we also include such temporal aspects as speed, and smoothness and stability of exposure, and autofocus.

NOTE: The sample video clips in this section are best viewed at 4K resolution. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 57

Exposure and Contrast

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

90

103

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (103)

These video stills show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s video exposure characteristics in low light compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 108

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), video still, underexposure in low light

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 109

Apple iPhone 12, video still, better exposure in low light

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 110

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), video still, underexposure in low light

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 61

Color

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

95

105

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (105)

These video stills show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s video color in indoor light.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), some visible white balance instabilities.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), good white balance.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 65

Autofocus

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

89

105

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro (105)

These sample clips show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s video autofocus performance in low light.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), slower autofocus, better stabilization

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), some visible “jello” effect

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 67

Texture

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

70

97

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (97)

These video stills show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s video texture in indoor light compared to the competition.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), video still

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 115

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), crop: good detail

Apple iPhone 12, video still

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 117

Apple iPhone 12, crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), video still

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 119

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 75

Noise

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

69

105

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro (105)

These sample clips show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s video noise performance in indoor light.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), visible noise but good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), more noise, less detail

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 90

Artifacts

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

76

94

Oppo Find X2 Pro

Best: Oppo Find X2 Pro (94)

For video artifacts, we check for the same kinds of artifacts mentioned in the Photo section, along with such video-specific artifacts as frame rate variation in different light conditions, judder effect, and moving artifacts (artifacts such as aliasing, color quantization, and flare can often be more intrusive when moving than in a still image).

This video still shows ringing artifacts.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), video still

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 123

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), crop: ringing

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Camera review: A slight Qualcomm advantage 124

Stabilization

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

98

102

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (102)

In these tests we analyze residual motion when handholding the camera during recording, as well as when walking and running with the camera. We also look for stabilization artifacts such as jello effect, sharpness differences between frames, and frame shift (abrupt changes of framing).

These sample clips show the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s video stabilization in laboratory conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), efficient static stabilization

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos), less effective stabilization

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Audio review

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Audio review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) is Samsung’s S-series flagship for the Chinese and North American markets. The device is built around Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 chipset instead of the Exynos variant used in most regions, but otherwise tech specs are largely identical, including the specs of the audio components.

Audio specifications include:

  • Two AKG speakers (one top side-firing and one bottom side-firing)
  • Surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus included)
  • Zoom-in recording using three microphones
  • Dual Audio (user can connect two Bluetooth devices for simultaneous playback)

With the two devices sharing the same audio specs, one would expect the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) test results and scores to be identical to those of the Exynos version. We have confirmed this by putting the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) through the complete DXOMARK Audio test protocol.

Given the identical results, we are posting only this short article for the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G  Ultra (Snapdragon). For the full set of measurements and the complete analysis, please click on the link below and read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos).

Go to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) Audio review

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Audio review 125
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Audio review 126

70

audio

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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Audio review

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos) Audio review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) is Samsung’s S-series base model for the Chinese and North American markets. The device is built around Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 chipset instead of the Exynos variant used in most other regions, but otherwise tech specs are largely identical.

Audio specs are identical across all models in the S21 series, including the S21+ and S21 Ultra models.

Audio specifications include:

  • Two AKG speakers (one top side-firing and one bottom side-firing)
  • Surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus included)
  • Zoom-in recording using three microphones
  • Dual Audio (user can connect two Bluetooth devices for simultaneous playback)

With all S21 models sharing the same audio specs, one would expect the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) test results and scores to be identical to those of the Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos) we tested previously. We have confirmed this by putting the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) through the complete DXOMARK Audio test protocol.

Given the identical results, we are posting only this short article for the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon). For the full set of measurements and the complete analysis, please click on the link below and read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Exynos).

Go to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) Audio review

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Audio review 128
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Audio review 129

70

audio

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Smartphone Review

Samsung Galaxy S21 Smartphone Review

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

 

Quick Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has an impressive camera set-up that’s capable of capturing some great photos and the battery will keep you powered all day long. It also looks great and the price will suit more people as over on Amazon, it’s priced at just under £640 which is around £375 cheaper than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and considerably less expensive than the Galaxy S20 was at launch. If you’re looking for a new smartphone that has a reasonable price, looks great but isn’t as big as other flagship smartphones are and has some great premium features, the Galaxy S21 would be a good choice.  

+ Pros

  • Great camera
  • Less expensive than the S20 was on launch 
  • Good battery
  • Lovely design

– Cons

  • No MicroSD Slot 
  • Poor Zoom (when not optical)
  • No headphone socket

 

 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the least expensive of the three flagship smartphones recently introduced by Samsung but with its impressive camera specs and a decent battery, it could be the perfect smartphone for someone who doesn’t want to spend quite as much cash on a new smartphone. Some of the standout features include a triple rear camera set-up offering a 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12MP Wide and 64MP Telephoto cameras, 6.2″ display, 8K video capture and various in-app creative camera modes. On paper, it’s looking good so far but as always, the proof is in the photo-taking so shall we find out how well it performs? 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Features

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

As with all of the latest Samsung Galaxy S21 models, the Galaxy S21 has had a design update as well as a rework of some of the camera specs previously seen on the Galaxy S20 series which includes introducing an improved optical zoom and 8K video capture.

The Galaxy S21 sticks with the familiar triple rear camera set-up offering 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12MP Wide and 64MP Telephoto cameras (same as the 21+ but the S21 Ultra features a Quad Camera set-up) and there’s a 10MP front-facing camera cut out of the 6.2″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display. 8K video is built-in along with camera modes such as Single Take 2.0, Director’s View, Portrait Mode and Space Zoom with zoom lock. You can also grab high-res photos from with the all-new motion view which captures footage just before and after you hit the shutter button. 

Single Take Mode offers 5x more AI processing along with a new dynamic slo-mo mode and a highlight real and the Portrait mode has been improved with AI-powered 3D analysis for better depth of field, among other things. Samsung also says that Space Zoom will capture clearer/steadier shots with a new zoom lock that’s designed to minimise shake. 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

For those who enjoy shooting and editing videos with their smartphones, there’s an all-new Director’s View mode which gives you multi-angle views via live thumbnails so you can preview and change the camera lens you’re capturing video with live so you don’t have to make as many cuts when editing. You can also capture video with the front and rear cameras at the same time. 

Other features include a 4000mAh battery which supports wireless, super-fast & fast charging and 8GB + 128/256GB RAM/ROM. 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 has an RRP of £769 but it’s currently available on Amazon UK for £639.95 along with the Galaxy S21+ and S21 Ultra which you can compare the specs of, side-by-side, with the Galaxy S21 in the table below. 

 

SpecsSamsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21+Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Rear CameraTriple: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12Mp Wide & 64MP TelephotoTriple: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12Mp Wide & 64MP TelephotoQuad: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 108MP Wide, 10MP 10X Telephoto, 10MP 3X Telephoto
Front Camera10MP10MP40MP
Display6.2″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X6.7″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X6.8″ WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Battery4000mAh4800mAh5000mAh
RAM/ROM8GB + 128/256GB8GB + 128/256GB12/16GB + 128/256/512GB
ChargingWireless, Super Fast & FastWireless, Super Fast & FastWireless, Super Fast & Fast
Dimensions71.2×151.7×7.9mm75.6×161.5×7.8mm75.6×165.1×8.9mm
Weight172g202g228g
Came App Improved FeaturesSingle Take 2.0, Director’s View, Portrait Mode, Space Zoom with zoom lockSingle Take 2.0, Director’s View, Portrait Mode, Space Zoom  with zoom lockSingle Take 2.0, Director’s View, Portrait Mode, 100X Space Zoom with zoom lock
Video 8K video8K video8K video and 4K filming across all lenses at 60fps

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Key Features

  • Rear Camera: 12MP Ultra-Wide, 12Mp Wide & 64MP Telephoto
  • Front Camera: 10MP
  • Display: 6.2″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
  • Battery: 4000mAh (Wireless, Super Fast & Fast Charging)
  • RAM/ROM: 8GB + 128/256GB
  • Dimensions: 71.2×151.7×7.9mm
  • Weight: 172g
  • 8K Video
  • Camera Modes Single Take 2.0, Director’s View, Portrait Mode, Space Zoom with zoom lock

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Handling

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

If you’ve previously owned a Samsung Galaxy smartphone the first thing you’ll notice is the design change as it features a newly designed smartphone body with a contour cut camera design that blends into the metal frame, wrapping around the edge of the smartphone. A new matt finish is also applied and there’s new Phantom Violet colour option, too, which we happen to have on test. 

The cameras sit stacked on the left-hand side in a unit that sits much closer to the smartphone’s body which has the familiar curved corners/edges and an almost bezel-free design. As seen on previous Galaxy smartphones, the front-facing camera sits in a screen cutout, so there’s no top bezel and you won’t see a chin either. 

We have to say we really like the new look the Galaxy range has as it’s a subtle change that’s noticeably different with the contrasting camera unit’s shape blending seamlessly with the body/frame of the Galaxy S21. 

As you expect from a modern-day smartphone, it feels really well built and solid in the hand but you might want to pop a case on it to stop it sliding off surfaces as many smartphones do nowadays but the Galaxy S21 isn’t quite as prone to it as some handsets are as the back is actually constructed from plastic. This does mean the premium feel of more expensive smartphones with full glass backs is lost but the matte finish stops the smartphone from looking cheap and actually helps stop fingerprints from spoiling the look of the smartphone. We really like the Phantom violet colour but you can also purchase the Galaxy S21 in White, Pink and Gray. 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

On the front is a  6.2-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display which makes it the smallest of the smartphones in the new Galaxy S21 range which will please those who aren’t fans of the phablet style smartphones we’re seeing more of. If you do want a larger screen, you’ll have to opt for the Galaxy S21+ which the Galaxy S21 shares similar specs with or the more expensive Galaxy S21 Ultra, but both are more expensive. 

The display has been downgraded when you compare it with the Galaxy S20 but in reality, it’s hard to tell as colour and brightness is still superb and images look of good quality when viewed on the smartphone. It also means that the Galaxy S21 could be marketed at a less expensive launch price which makes the device more accessible. 

A metal frame surrounds the display with curved edges that are comfortable to hold and you find the usual power button/volume rocker to the side as well as a SIM tray, USB-C port and speaker on the bottom of the device. There’s no headphone jack and you won’t find a MicroSD card slot either so expandable storage is a ‘no’. 

 

Samsung Galaxy S21
 

The camera line-up is the same as we find on the Galaxy S20 with a 12MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide and 64MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom but improvements to AI help the Galaxy S21 capture better photos. The differences between the Galaxy S20 and S21 in terms of image quality are subtle in some places but massively different when you compare it to older Galaxy smartphones. 

Areas where the AI has been improved include the Single Take mode which captures a variety of photos/video, using all three cameras, with just one press of the shutter button. This mode was available on the Galaxy S20 range but a new slow-mo option has been added and it’s just a cool, fun feature that’s worth having a play around with. Another new mode is Director’s View which allows you to shoot with the front and rear camera at the same time which will be great for vloggers but we’re not sure if it’s a feature the everyday user will be reaching for every day. 

As for the camera app itself, it’s easy to use and looks very similar to many other camera apps built into modern smartphones. There’s also a Pro mode should you wish to take more control over the camera settings. 

Battery life – There’s a 4000mAh battery built-in which easily lasted a full day of use. You can also use fast-charging and wireless charging. 

 

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