Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: A big-screen phone that gets the big things right

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Specs

OS: Android 11 / One UI 3.1
Screen measurement: 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED (2400 x 1080)
Refresh fee: 48Hz - 120Hz
Processor: Snapdragon 888
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
Rear cameras: 12MP wide (f/1.8), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 64MP telephoto (f/2.0) with 3x hybrid zoom/30x virtual
Front digicam: 10MP (f/2.2)
Video: Up to 8K at 24 fps
Battery: 4,800 mAh
Battery lifestyles (Hrs:Mins): 09:41 (adaptive) /  09:53 (60Hz)
Charging: 25 W (charger now not integrated)
Colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet, Phantom Red, Phantom Gold
Size: 6.36 x 2.98 x 0.31 inches
Weight: 7.05 oz

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus once again proves why Samsung is the dominant Android phone producer. The company pioneered things we take without any consideration at the moment like massive presentations. Samsung has prior to now taken a “throw everything at the wall to look what sticks” roughly manner. And despite the fact that it might’ve gave the impression foolish at points in the past, this MO has given us mainstay options.

With the Galaxy S21 Plus, alternatively, Samsung takes a step back, restraining itself to instead be offering a compelling, big screen device. All of the over-the-top focus was on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, while the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus are extra iterative upgrades on their S20 predecessors.

Though we are conditioned not to simplest need the latest factor, we’re also taught that the latest model ought to supply vital upgrades. Some may see a few of the design choices with the Galaxy S21 Plus to be downgrades or Samsung standing in position, however I argue that’s not the case. Despite feeling like the awkward middle kid of the S21 family, the S21 Plus gives a lot to love.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review cheat sheet

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Release date and value

In the US, the Galaxy S21 Plus begins at $999 for the 128GB style. That’s a $Two hundred drop from the Galaxy S20 Plus’ starting worth. An additional $50 doubles the storage on the Galaxy S21 Plus to 256GB.  In the UK, the S21 Plus begins at £949, with the 256GB variant costing £999. For reference, the Galaxy S20 Plus launched at £999 in 2020. You should buy the Galaxy S21 Plus without delay from Samsung or thru your service. Before you do, check out the best Galaxy S21 deals to peer if there’s tactics to avoid wasting on the Galaxy S21 Plus.

The Galaxy S21 Plus’ price is similar to the iPhone 12 Pro. You can also draw comparisons between the Galaxy S21 Plus and Google’s $699 Pixel 5, which regardless of having lower-tier specifications nonetheless kicks above its weight in raw digital camera performance.

Since Samsung copied Apple and didn’t come with a charging brick, you’ll need to determine a charging solution. If you will have a 25W brick from the S20, or something identical, you’re just right. But if you happen to’re the use of an older USB-C charger, you’ll wish to believe a wi-fi charger or the $20 25W wall charger from Samsung. You gets a USB-C cable with the phone, despite the fact that.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Design

On its face, the Galaxy S21 Plus looks reasonably similar to the Galaxy S20 Plus. It has very interesting slim bezels with a unmarried hollow punch cutout for the entrance digital camera in the center of the peak edge of the show. Depending on which color you picked — the Galaxy S21 is available in Phantom Black, Phantom Silver or Phantom Violet — you'll also see the fringe of the body round the bezels, making for a ravishing instrument. The display is now flat instead of curved, which would possibly not glance as lovely, but leads to fewer inadvertent touches. 

It’s on the again that Samsung made some changes from remaining yr’s S20 Plus. The triple digital camera module no longer stands proud on its own, instead melding seamlessly into the frame in what Samsung calls the contour minimize design. Though the S21 Plus nonetheless has a noticeable camera hump, it appears less awkward than its predecessor’s.

Smooth to the touch, the again doesn’t display fingerprints or smudges very simply. Despite its size, I realized that the Galaxy S21 Plus didn’t slip around in my hand. It's a very grippy tool that I haven't fearful about dropping or sliding out of my pocket.

The Galaxy S21 Plus is not a small phone at 6.36 x 2.98 x 0.31 inches, weighing in at 7.05 oz.. It’s nearly the same measurement as the Galaxy S20 Plus (6.37 x 2.ninety x 0.31 in, 6.Fifty six ounces). One-handing the Galaxy S21 Plus can be tricky, especially in case you have smaller palms. If big telephones are your thing, even though, this one will make you satisfied. 

Samsung touts the new and improved fingerprint sensor under the exhibit, which is 1.7x better and 50% sooner than its predecessor. While earlier models have had varying degrees of accuracy, the sensor in the S21 Plus is quite dependable. It’s quick and really correct.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Display

For the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, Samsung “downgraded” the demonstrate to a 1080p answer. However, you can have the 120Hz adaptive mode enabled all the time at this solution. Contrast this to the Galaxy S20 Plus last 12 months, the place you had to make a choice from QHD 60Hz and 1080p 120Hz. Now, you just choose which refresh fee you wish to have.

If you wish to have things to be as buttery smooth as conceivable, then depart your S21 Plus exhibit on the adaptive mode. This will let the reveal’s refresh charge shift between 48Hz and 120Hz, because of this that phone can adapt for your use and save battery existence the place possible. If you want to get the maximum out of your battery, alternatively, then lock the display to 60Hz and let it be. You’ll be missing out on noticeable differences, but no less than Samsung offers the choice.

Moving onto the quality of the show itself, Samsung opted for a top-tier display in spite of everything. In both the Natural and Vibrant settings, colors pop and blacks are very deep. It gets plenty brilliant sufficient for direct daylight, while media, video games or videos, look great in this display.

In our lab testing, the Galaxy S21 Plus managed 103.8% of the sRGB area and 73.5% of DCI-P3 in Natural mode. In Vivid, the phone hit 212.3% of sRGB and 150.4% of DCI-P3. The iPhone 12 Pro, in the meantime, reproduced 115.6% of the sRGB colour gamut and 81.9% of DCI-P3. And in the end, for its Delta-E colour accuracy rating, the S21 Plus got a 0.18. That handily beats each the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (0.24) and iPhone 12 Pro (0.28), as numbers nearer to 0 are extra accurate.

Whatever mode seems best to you, Vivid or Natural, you’ll have certainly one of the highest smartphone presentations round. I really enjoyed gazing and taking part in things in this phone. I looked at Blade Runner 2049 from my Plex server, which has scenes later in the movie with harsh orange tones. The Galaxy S21 Plus treated those wonderfully.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Cameras

The Galaxy S21 Plus makes use of the identical digicam setup as the Galaxy S20 Plus. It options 12MP wide-angle, 12MP ultrawide, and 64MP telephoto lenses. The latter camera sports a 3x hybrid optic zoom and 30x space zoom. Samsung’s trump card this yr, alternatively, comes right down to software, as it in spite of everything realized from Google and that company’s Pixel 5.

I examined the default picture mode of the Galaxy S21 Plus in opposition to the iPhone 12. (I don’t have a 12 Pro for photo comparisons, however with the exception of a telephoto lens, the iPhone 12 offers the S21 Plus a beautiful truthful battle.) Right off the bat, you'll see the Galaxy S21 Plus saturates the photo more than the iPhone 12’s image — an excessive amount of so for my part. Apple’s device also captures the shadows higher, whereas the S21 Plus bumps up the exposure and flattens a lot of the blacks.

For another outside shot, t the Galaxy S21 Plus managed to capture the car’s details somewhat well considering that I took this shot in direct daylight. You can see the red stripes alongside the Mini’s skirt and the brake rotors at the back of the spokes of the rims. The refracting daylight isn’t so harsh, either. Meanwhile, the iPhone’s shot has that terrible lens flare ruining the entire image. You can nonetheless make out some main points, but general I think the iPhone effort is a worse photograph.

Moving indoors to my workplace, the Galaxy S21 Plus as soon as once more brightened everything up on this picture of the place of business decor, with the color on my metal poster having a look a bit washed out. The iPhone 12 produced something a lot more true to lifestyles with more lifelike colours. While nonetheless well-lit, the iPhone’s shot captures the warm tones of the picket paneling, the cushy grey of the concrete Celtic move, and just a bit of the tiny dots of colour in the cross-stitch development.

Once again, when testing portrait mode, each phones took two other approaches. The Galaxy S21 Plus photo is extra true-to-life with a soft blur radius. I’m in clear center of attention with correct colours. The iPhone 12 cooled the whole thing down considerably, possibly due to the combination of shadows with the snow in my yard. The blur radius is very similar to the S21 Plus’, however the entirety from my face to the smoker at the back of me is far too cool. Even the sky is just too blue. This was once constant across portrait pictures.

At night time, the Galaxy S21 Plus tends towards darker footage compared to the iPhone 12. The Galaxy S21 Plus still keeps a lot of detail, even if it is a bit darker. The iPhone 12 is noticeably brighter with deeper shadows and more element in the bricks. Both are slightly good, however I love the iPhone 12’s night time mode performance better.

For the front-facing camera, I stepped into the shadows behind this row of townhouses. Right away, you'll see how cool and smoothed the Galaxy S21 Plus’ shot is. The blue of my eyes appears despite a bit of a squint, the gray of my blouse is more true to life, and the fences behind me are the right colors. On the other hand, the iPhone’s selfie is a bit more strange. Notice how everything got warmed up, like the tint and black level correction were given overtuned. My face seems much redder than same old, my beard seems darker than it is, and the wooden fences appear a bit off.

Finally, Samsung stresses the zoom functions with its new telephones. The S21 Plus gives a 3x hybrid optical zoom telephoto lens, which is already neat for a long way away shots. But with that comes Space Zoom, which will web you up to 30x zoom footage, letting you capture things that are ridiculously a long way away. For fast reference, right here’s the S21 Plus’ max zoom as opposed to the iPhone 12’s. You can easily spot the variations, and it’s no contest between the two. The S21 Plus may just pick up the purple stool at the very end of the road, while you'll be able to slightly see it in the iPhone 12’s image.

As some distance as video, the Galaxy S21 Plus can move all the method up to 8K at 24 frames per second (fps). If you wish to have one thing a bit extra reasonable, the phone also helps 4K at 60 fps and 1080p at A hundred and twenty fps. All informed, you'll have super clean, high solution videos that glance superior later when you cross to look at them. If you go for 1080p at 60 fps, you'll use the Super Steady mode, which makes use of AI to help get rid of hand shake to your recording, making for an even smoother video.

If you’re in reality into vlogging, you'll be able to transfer on Director Mode, which activates both the rear and front cameras for recording at the same time. Director Mode also generates reside thumbnails from all of the S21 Plus’ lenses.

Some of the different features Samsung packed into the Galaxy S21 Plus’ digital camera include the portrait video and an updated model of Single Take. The former is just what it feels like, where the subject of the video is stored in center of attention while the background remains blurred. The blurring can get a little overzealous when you move the digicam round, however it’s all around beautiful forged.

Single Take lets you choose from a choice of the best photographs in a given scene. The S21 Plus will actually seize a couple of footage at a time, so that you'll pick the perfect one to your needs. This might be useful in case your puppy or child occurs to move while you attempt to photograph them.

Samsung dropped at endure its best possible with the Galaxy S21 Plus’ cameras. It goes head-to-head with different heavyweights like Google and Apple and holds its own fairly effectively. While I don’t have a Pixel 5 to check it in opposition to, you'll check out the digital camera section of our Galaxy S21 review to look how those cameras examine towards Google’s latest. In the end, the S21 Plus’ cameras truly inspired me. Although the phone’s cameras like to oversaturate and overexpose every so often, the pictures that it produces come out nice maximum of the time.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Performance

U.S. variations of the Galaxy S21 Plus makes use of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip (SoC. (In the remainder of the international, your S21 Plus is powered by the Exynos 2100.) Compared to the Snapdragon 865, the 888 promises 20% better CPU performance, 35% improvements in GPU velocity, and upgrades to the AI functions. Samsung paired this processor with 8GB of RAM in the Galaxy S21 Plus, making for a very tough phone.

Unlike the Galaxy S20 Plus, there’s no 12GB RAM possibility with the S21 Plus, but the general public don’t need that much reminiscence in the first position. Power users can always turn to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which is able to higher swimsuit their wishes with its 12GB and 16GB options. So the S21 Plus losing 4GB of RAM in lately’s age isn’t as unhealthy it might appear. Android has gotten higher with reminiscence control and Samsung has a few tweaks in One UI to assist with that, too.

In checking out, the Snapdragon 888 nonetheless falls in the back of Apple’s A14 Bionic SoC. For Geekbench 5, which measures single- and multicore performance, the Galaxy S21 Plus hit 1,116 in single-core and three,300 in multicore. Compare the latter to the results of the iPhone 12 (3,859) and the iPhone 12 Pro (3,880).

For the GPU, we used the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited take a look at, which pushes the GPU onerous to render challenging scenes in actual time. The Galaxy S21 Plus controlled a final ranking of five,571 with a median fps of 33.37. Compare this to the iPhone 12 Pro’s 6,567 and 39 fps.

Finally, we ran the Galaxy S21 Plus through a video transcoding take a look at, where the phone will have to transcode a 4K video to 1080p in the Adobe Premiere Rush app. The S21 Plus controlled a time of one minute, the best possible we’ve seen from an Android phone. But as good as that activity used to be, the iPhone 12 Pro did the identical job in a mere 27 seconds.

Once again, the iPhone beats the leading Android units in uncooked efficiency, but artificial benchmarks don’t inform the complete tale. In day by day use, I didn’t find the Galaxy S21 Plus to be lacking in any regard. I played Call of Duty: Mobile, Pascal’s Wager, and Grid Autosport on max settings, all of which push the phone exhausting. The phone handled all of them brilliantly. I additionally tried some Xbox Game Pass and Steam Link streaming to it with no problems. The Galaxy S21 Plus also works nicely with the Razer Kishi gamepad, which ranges up mobile gameplay considerably in the games that enhance it.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Battery existence and charging

As with demonstrate measurement, the Galaxy S21 Plus sits right in the heart of the S21 and S21 Ultra on the subject of battery existence. The S21 Plus and its 4,800 mAh battery turned in a so-so performance in our battery exams and even threw in a little marvel for us.

Tom’s Guide’s proprietary battery test comes to a phone being left to endlessly load webpages over and over the use of a mobile connection. We tested the S21 Plus on both adaptive and 60Hz modes on T-Mobile 5G.

In adaptive mode, the Galaxy S21 Plus reached Nine hours and Forty one minutes, which is solely shy of the 10-hour mark we see on moderate. For reference, the Galaxy S21 Ultra hit 10:07 in adaptive mode, whilst the Galaxy S21 managed 6:31. So 9:41, whilst not nice, is respectable. Meanwhile, in 60Hz mode, the S21 Plus reached 9:53. Compare that to the S21 Ultra’s superb 11:25 and the S21’s 09:53.

That result shocked us. As you can see, there’s reasonably a disparity between the 60Hz and adaptive modes with regards to battery lifestyles for the S21 and S21 Ultra. However, the S21 Plus has nary a noticeable distinction between the two, which means that you don’t save a lot of battery lifestyles via the use of the 60Hz mode on this phone.

As you’ve heard by way of now, none of the Galaxy S21 telephones include a charger. They do include a USB-C cable so that you'll be able to use a charging brick you already own. Or, you'll purchase one one after the other at your discretion. The phone helps as much as 25 W of rapid charging, and also you even have the wireless charging direction in the event you so choose.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Software and One UI 3.1

Until very lately, Samsung had a awful popularity for instrument. But when Samsung offered One UI a couple of years ago, things modified. It proved that the phone maker used to be taking tool significantly and providing a more mature pores and skin, something more similar to Google’s inventory Android.

One UI appears great, feels slick in its animations and transitions, and does a rather good process at staying out of the way whilst offering useful options. Samsung made one thing that offers class that doesn’t really feel bloated. Sure, the S21 Plus has pointless apps pre-installed, but a unexpected quantity will also be uninstalled and you can disable the leisure. Overall, a lot of other people will like the One UI revel in.

With the Galaxy S21 series, Samsung introduced One UI 3.1, which came with a number of adjustments. A few of those include the Google Discover feed integrated into the stock launcher, Google Home instrument controls, Google Duo baked into the inventory phone app, video call effects, and a number of other enhancements to the digital camera app. 

Not all is well with One UI, alternatively. Samsung needs you to make use of its features out of the field, together with Edge Panels and the Bixby shortcut. Considering how pointless Bixby is, even when in comparison to Siri, I extremely counsel changing what a lengthy press of the energy button does so that it not wakes Bixby. We have some quick Galaxy S21 tips to get you began.

I replaced the S21 Plus stock launcher with a third-party one — first Nova, then Niagara. The paginated app drawer in the One UI launcher is frustrating and I believed it a relic of the long-forgotten previous. Out of the field, Samsung organizes the apps in some nebulous, contextual manner, however when you've got a lot of them, things can get frustrating. Luckily, you can arrange the drawer alphabetically.

Samsung could cope with a lot of my One UI proceedings by means of providing more alternatives right through initial setup. It may can help you make a selection your navigation style (nav bar or gestures) and whether or not you want sure features enabled or now not, as an example. A lot of folks merely won’t spend a lot of time digging thru the settings menus to search out what they want.

The Galaxy S21 Plus comes with Android 11, which is great. Samsung has promised that it’ll supply three years of OS updates for its telephones, which means that the S21 Plus will almost definitely see Android 14 in 2023. This is a huge development versus the Samsung of the previous and I’m satisfied to see this. How temporarily the corporate will unlock updates is every other factor fully.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: What about the Galaxy Z Flip 3?

The Galaxy Z Flip Three is right around the nook, and it is rumored to start out at $999 like the Galaxy S21 Plus. But beyond simply folding up in half, does the Z Flip Three stand to provide as much as the S21 Plus does? We can only go off of rumors right now, however the quick answer is: We think the S21 Plus shall be the higher phone.

For starters, the Z Flip Three looks as if it's going to simplest have two cameras, and we would wager that the second one is an ultrawide. That manner no telephoto on the Flip 3. Furthermore, we've got heard that the battery on the foldable would possibly not be as large as the S21 Plus', which means that it may not closing just about as long as the extra traditional S21 Plus.

We'll have to look how the two telephones evaluate as soon as we have now them both in hand.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Android 12 update

Samsung launched One UI 4 for the Galaxy S21 Plus in mid-November 2021. This replace brings Android 12, which gives several key improvements to the UI and privateness parts. You can now choose your formulation accessory colour with the Color Palette, or get right of entry to the privateness dashboard to see which apps are the use of your mic, camera, and placement.

While Samsung has modified something from what you can find on a Pixel phone, you can read our Android 12 review to be told more about what you'll be able to be expecting with the update.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review: Verdict

All told, Samsung nailed it with the Galaxy S21 Plus. It has maximum of the strengths of the smaller S21 in a bigger package deal. If you don’t want to shell out $1,199 for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Plus model is the next top choice in case you favor a big phone.

Samsung would possibly have pared again the options on the S21 and S21 Plus, but I feel it really works in this phone’s choose. Having the exhibit tuned down to 1080p works just high quality, especially in the adaptive refresh charge mode. 

If you’re the use of a Galaxy S20 Plus, however, this isn’t a worthy improve. The instrument options Samsung presented with the S21 will trickle down for your software, in the event that they haven’t already. You still have excellent performance, an important reveal, and a number of camera power to keep you happy.

Moreover, if you happen to’re using a Galaxy S20 FE, then I strongly suggest towards upgrading to the Galaxy S21 or S21 Plus. Samsung put out a nice phone with the S20 FE and it’s honestly the absolute best Android competitor to the S21 and S21 Plus at this point. Other than the Snapdragon 865, the S20 FE is remarkably similar to its S21 cousins (the Ultra notwithstanding). 

The Galaxy S21 Plus is not a dangerous acquire at $999. It’s got a lot going for it. If you’re coming from an older instrument, like the Galaxy S10 sequence, this is a forged upgrade.

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