The Samsung Galaxy S21 range gives Android fans three models to choose from: the S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra.
Eye-catchingly, this latest trio of handsets incorporates super-fast 5G connectivity into the offering. Still in the early stages of roll-out around the UK, 5G has the potential to deliver speeds that are quicker than those of most home broadband set-ups.
For the purposes of this review, we’ll concentrate on the S21 handset, run through the main features, and generally weigh up if it’s a contender for your latest handset shopping list.
Click on the boxes below for more information about how you can get your hands on the best Samsung Galaxy S21 deals.
Price and specifications
Before looking at specifications, it’s worth taking a look at prices. The base model of the S21 actually comes in around £130 cheaper than its equivalent fore-runner, the S20, when that was launched.
There’s a reason for that. You might expect new phone releases to boast an improved spec from previous models, although the S21 actually offers slightly less than the S20. If you’re after the latest Samsung innovations, instead of going for the base handset in the range, you’ll need to consider its bigger sibling: the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a 6.2” display with a 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth scrolling and graphics – twice the 60Hz speed offered by the iPhone 12. It runs on the Android 11 operating system and comes with a pretty standard 4,000mAh battery that should see you through a day between charges.
Weighing up the possibilities
With dimensions of 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm, the S21 weighs in at 169g making this phone the smallest member of the Galaxy S21 family. Even for those with smallish hands, there shouldn’t be too much trouble when it comes to handling the handset.
Samsung says the Exynos 2100 SoC chip (Snapdragon 888 in the US) is the fastest-ever chip in a Galaxy, offering users seamless multi-tasking and hyper-fast content streaming.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 comes in four ‘phantom’ colours – violet, grey, white and pink. Samsung has switched from a full glass rear on the Galaxy S20 to a ‘Glasstic’ rear with a matte finish on the S21. Glasstic is plastic that’s designed to look and feel like glass.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with 8GB RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of internal memory. A Hybrid SIM lets you use two SIM cards (and phone numbers) in the one phone. Alternatively, you can use the extra slot for a microSD card and increase the storage capacity of your phone.
Recharging the S21 is easy, with both fast charging and Qi wireless charging. It also offers reverse charging, where you can use your phone’s power to top up devices such as Qi-compatible wireless headphones or smartwatches.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, which means it can survive being submerged in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes.
Smartphones are often judged by their camera capabilities and the S21 offers the ‘Contour Cut Camera’ which blends the camera seamlessly with the phones’ frame.
The Galaxy S21 has a 12 Megapixel (MP) rear wide-angle lens, 64MP telephoto lens, 30 x zoom, and 12MP ultra-wide lens. On the front, it has a 10MP selfie camera. Note that if you want a wide-angle lens and a secondary telephoto lens, you’ll need to go for the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
A new feature on the Galaxy S21 is a ‘Director’s View’ mode, which enables you to shoot with the front and rear cameras at the same time.
Get connected on 5G
All the phones in the Galaxy S21 range are 5G-enabled. Whether you can actually get 5G where you live is another matter. All the major networks, including EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, have online coverage checkers worth investigating before you decide on a network to go with your phone.
Bear in mind that, as well as living in a 5G area, you’ll need a 5G airtime tariff to accompany your Samsung Galaxy S21.
How to compare Samsung Galaxy 21 deals
The Galaxy S21 128GB starts at £769, while the 256GB version costs £819.
Once you’ve decided how much internal storage you want and found a network which offers decent 5G coverage in your area, you should research the best tariff for your needs.
Some S21 contracts offer low or zero upfront costs, meaning you don’t have to pay anything when placing your order. This might sound good, but might not necessarily be the best value long-term.
You can get the Galaxy S21 on 12, 24 and 36-month contracts. To work out the total cost of any mobile deal, multiply the monthly cost by the number of months, add on the upfront fee, and subtract any cashback amount. This will give you the total contract cost to compare with other contracts of the same length.
Dip in display
In a disappointment for some, the display resolution has dropped from 1,440 x 3,200 on the S20 to 1,080 x 2,400 pixels on the S21.
What’s more, the base S21 model doesn’t support Samsung’s S Pen stylus. To make use of that feature, you’ll need to consider the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
In common with some other smartphone brands, and in a bid to cut down on waste from the packaging requirements, the Galaxy S21 doesn’t come with a charger in its box. To make it work, you’ll need to have a USB-C charger which most smartphone users tend to own already.
If you already have a Galaxy S20, the S21 - although still a good handset - doesn’t perhaps make the most compelling case for an upgrade. For a properly progressive spec, you’d likely need to consider splashing out on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.