Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: Is It Still Worth It?

Reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S21 to know is it still worth in 2024, we’re going to be delving into the Galaxy S21 to really find out what this phone is made out of. Testing through different categories, from design and build quality to display and performance to battery life and camera quality, and then my final thought is whether it’s still worth it or not.

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Design and Build

Samsung Galaxy S21 Design and Build Quality

The Galaxy S21 is the two-tone design, especially in purple and gold, and the front has very slim and symmetrical bezels all the way around that give it a nice and clean look, and the hole punch is tiny and unobtrusive.

It’s a pretty light phone of this size at the weight 169 grams, it’s a comfy phone to hold. The volume and power buttons are easy to reach without having to slide my hand up and down on the phone. One thing that some of you may not like is that the back cover, it’s actually a type of plastic instead of glass, which is not exactly the most premium material for a modern smartphone.

And this is actually where having a plastic back is a good thing. Plastic is not nearly as prone to shattering or cracking his glasses, so we should see some favourable results in our three- and six-foot drop tests first, though we will test out its water resistance claim.

And Also IP68-rated for water and dust, meaning it should be able to survive in water 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes. That means our 30-minute dunk in a couple of inches of water should be child’s play, and after 30 minutes, the phone was still alive and working.

Software Updates

Software Updates

The next thing is very important, but it’s something that’s often overlooked, and that’s software updates. The Galaxy S21 was released in 2021, and Samsung has committed to giving four major software updates, meaning it should receive software updates through 2025, two years from now, that’s decent for the Android. But it still falls well short of Apple, which has been known to keep their phones updated for six years or more.

Display Picture Quality

Screen Picture Quality

As for watching content, Galaxy S21 has a 6.2-inch dynamic AMOLED display that runs at a 120 hertz high refresh rate. It’s very smooth to use because of that refresh rate, and it gets extremely bright when outdoors in direct sunlight too; it can hit a peak brightness of over 1300 nits, which is more than bright enough for any situation. However, the display is only 1080p in resolution, so it’s not as sharp as some other displays of its size phones, and the Vivid color profile that is turned on by default does oversaturate the colors a bit.

Speakers Audio Quality

Speakers Sound Quality

The Galaxy S21 has a set of stereo speakers, one up by the front-facing camera and one down by the charging port. There’s good stereo separation between the two, and I can hear when music or sounds shift from the left to right channel. The sound definitely does distort at its maximum volume, though, so you’re going to want to keep it just a couple of notches below Max for the best sound quality.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy 21 Performance and Gaming

When comes to performance, the Galaxy S21 comes in two different variants: the Snapdragon 888 model that we have for this review and the Exynos 2100 that you can also get. All variants come with 8 gigabytes of RAM and either 128 or 256 gigabytes of storage. For the most part, my Snapdragon-equipped performed pretty well. I haven’t encountered any slowdowns at all in my two weeks of testing, and it handled pretty much everything I threw at it with gusto, from some pretty intensive mobile gaming to the simple stuff like watching 4K videos.

It ran a Geekbench 6 score of almost 1500 in single-core and 3529 in multi-core, which is a pretty solid score. Here’s the thing, though: when you’re doing some more intensive stuff like gaming for a long time, this plastic back and aluminium frame just heat up like crazy.

I recorded about five or six minutes of 8K footage from the rear cameras, and then I had to stop because the frame and back of the phone were just getting too uncomfortable to hold. As one of the downsides to having a plastic back, it’s just not very good with heat dissipation, meaning the insides kind of just start to cook after a little while of working too hard.

Cameras Test

The Galaxy S21 has a 12 megapixel wide, a 12 megapixel ultra wide, a 64 megapixel telephoto shooter lens on the backside, and a 10 megapixel selfie camera on the front. The past two years have clearly been good. It’s been benefiting from regular software updates that have improved the camera, and it’s been a very reliable shooter over the past couple of weeks, I was extremely happy with the kind of pictures that I got with it. The portrait mode does a fantastic job with the background blur cutouts on most images, and the colors look surprisingly great.

Even the 10-megapixel selfie camera, which I thought was going to be the weak point, just does really well in most circumstances. The 4K video is also pretty darn solid as long as you have decent lighting. The only thing I didn’t like on Galaxy S21 is the 64-megapixel telephoto camera, because it actually isn’t a telephoto camera at all, it roughly has the same focal length as the wide-angle camera, and Samsung is cheating by just cropping into that higher resolution sensor.

As a result, some of the pictures that I took with 64-megapixel camera aren’t the best. I would have preferred a real telephoto with a longer focal length instead, the ability to take great pictures doesn’t mean a whole lot if the battery doesn’t last long enough to capture them.

Battery life

Samsung Galaxy 21 Battery Life

The Galaxy S21 has a 4000 milliamp-hour battery, which is a decent size for this phone, but it’s certainly not the biggest I’ve seen in my standardized battery test, which you can see here on the right. The lightly used finished the test with just 28% remaining, that’s not a bad result, but it’s also not the best either. If Galaxy S21 had a 4,500 milliamp-hour battery like the OnePlus 9 that was released around the same time, it would have performed much better in this test. If battery life is of concern to you, another option would be to buy the S21 Plus instead since it has a bigger screen and a much larger 4800 milliamp-hour battery.

Out of the box, it supposed to be able to charge at a maximum speed of 25 watts with the wire and 15 watts on a wireless charger. That’s not fantastic by modern standards, but even worse than that, my Galaxy S21 only charged at a maximum of 15 watts via cable out of the box, and it took an hour and 15 minutes to charge from dead to full with that 15 watt charging speed.

As it turns out, Samsung has disabled fast charging by default, and you actually have to re-enable it in the battery settings page to get the full 25 watt speed, but there’s a catch unless you have a power adapter that supports USB power delivery. PS: Like the official 25-watt Samsung charger, you won’t get that 25-watt charging speed; it’ll just max out at 15. Anyway, when I dug out the right charger, it went from dead to full in just under an hour, which is faster but not impressive.

Final Though

The value of time in this is very important for two reasons: Number one, you want a phone that’s worth your cash, right? Of course you do, but number two, if you’ve been following along and tallying the numbers, you’ll know that we are several points short of that critical number of 70. I’ve seen Galaxy S21 over the past couple of weeks and the phone will receive software updates for at least the 2 years, that it’s a pretty good deal as long as the phone is in good condition. It’ got great camera setup, solid performance, and despite some down battery life performance and charging, the Samsung’s S21 is still a great phone.

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