The Galaxy S21+ is Samsung’s more affordable flagship smartphone, aiming to be a more mainstream big-screen alternative than the S21 Ultra.
The new Android phone is priced at £949 – £200 less than the top-of-the-line S21 Ultra – but if you shop around, you can find it for less than £750, making it much more affordable.
It features the same metal and glass sandwich design as the majority of smartphones on the market, and, in a departure from previous Samsung phones, the 6.7in screen is flat rather than curved on the sides. Despite this, the screen is bright, colourful, and responsive, with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz to ensure that scrolling is as smooth as possible.
While the S21+ is 27g lighter than the S21 Ultra, its 200g weight and lack of a grip edge on the sides make it more difficult to hold than similar rivals such as the OnePlus 9 Pro – suggesting the use of a phone grip.
- 6.7in FHD+ Dynamic Amoled 2X (394ppi) 120Hz main display
- Samsung Exynos 2100 (EU) or Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor (US)
- RAM: 8 GB
- Storage: 128 or 256 GB
- Operating system: Android 11 with One UI 3.1
- Camcorder: 12MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, and 64MP 3x “hybrid” telephoto; 10MP front-facing camera
- 5G, dual nanosim, USB-C, wifi 6, NFC, Bluetooth 5, UWB, and location services
- Water resistance: IP68 (1.5m for 30 mins)
- Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 7.8mm
- Weight: 200g
Battery Life of 36 hours
The S21+ is equipped with a Samsung Exynos 2100 processor in Europe and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor in the United States, along with 8GB of RAM.
Performance was comparable to the S21 Ultra, but felt noticeably smoother than the S20 series from last year. Each movement, from unlocking the phone to launching applications, occurs slightly faster.
The phone’s battery quickly outlasts a full day of heavy use. I got more than 36 hours between charges – from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on day one – including more than 5.5 hours of screen time divided between chat apps, Chrome, Gmail, Evernote, the Guardian, and Spotify, as well as about 15 images and about two hours on 5G, with the remainder on wifi.
Samsung does not specify how many full-charge cycles the battery can last. Usually, batteries in identical devices can be recharged 500 times while retaining at least 80% of their original power.
In most cases, the handset is repairable and comes with a 24-month warranty. Repairs to the screen cost no more than £219, while battery replacement costs no more than £59.
Samsung offers trade-in and recycling schemes for old devices but the smartphone does not include any recycled materials. The company publishes annual sustainability reports but not individual product impact reports. The S21+ does not have a charger or earphones in the box.
One User Interface 3.1
The S21+ comes pre-installed with Samsung’s new version of Android 11, dubbed One UI 3.1, which is identical to the One UI 3.1 found on the S21 Ultra and other Samsung smartphones.
It inherits the majority of Android 11’s new features, including the notification shade’s separation of conversation, media, and other alerts, conversation bubbles, expanded privacy settings, and additional permissions.
In general, One UI 3.1 remains one of the most refined and highly customised versions of Android, despite Samsung’s major acceleration of updates. Additionally, the company has committed to four years of significant Android updates and regular security fixes, which is excellent for Android devices but falls short of Apple’s five-plus years of support.
The S21+ features a triple camera system on the back, including a 12MP ultrawide, a 12MP medium, and a 64MP 2x “hybrid” telephoto camera, as well as a 10MP selfie camera.
The primary large camera captures extremely high-quality images in a range of lighting conditions, with enhanced low-light output over previous iterations. The ultra-wide camera is also very nice, but struggles slightly in low light, often losing detail and sharpness. The 3x telephoto camera is adequate for its purpose, but pales in comparison to rivals’ and the S21 Ultra’s extended optical zooms – everything beyond the 3x “hybrid zoom” begins to resemble an oil painting.
By default, the camera shoots at 12MP through all three lenses, but in good light, the telephoto camera will take images at 64MP at a 1x magnification. Video capture is similarly impressive across all three lenses, with two of them capable of 4K at 60 frames per second. The ten-megapixel selfie camera is adequate but can be a little soft in low light.
In general, the S21+ camera is adequate to compete with the majority of rivals but falls short of the class-leading camera on the S21 Ultra.
The stereo speakers on this phone are excellent.
The call quality was excellent, both in regular mode and on mic.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ is priced at £949 for 128GB of storage and £999 for 256GB, but is often discounted significantly.
To put this into context, the Galaxy S21 costs £769, the Galaxy S21 Ultra costs £1,149, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra costs £1,179, the Galaxy Z Flip costs £1,300, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 costs £1,799; the Oppo Find X3 Pro costs £1,099, the OnePlus 8 Pro costs £799, and the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max costs £1,099.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ is a fine handset, but it is completely eclipsed by a much superior model with nearly identical dimensions – the S21 Ultra.
The S21+ features a good 120Hz screen protected by the latest in reinforced glass, outstanding durability, a premium design, long battery life, and at least four years of software support. However, it is a large phone that is not as easy to manage as smaller rivals. Although its camera is adequate, it lags far behind Samsung’s best.