Revisiting Galaxy S21 Plus After One Year
The Galaxy S21 series was launched back in February 2021. Back then I was using the Galaxy S20+ with Exynos 990. Due to its poor battery life and poor performance, I decided to upgrade to Galaxy S21 Plus, after using the Galaxy S20 Plus for less than 8 months. Now, it’s been a year since I am using the Galaxy S21 Plus, and this is one year later Galaxy S21 Plus review, I will try to cover everything I can.
Design And Build
The Galaxy S21 Plus in its Phantom Black colour is a true piece of statement. The matte black finish at the back feels premium with its contour cut camera housing just makes the phone stand out from other Android smartphones in the market. The back of the phone is covered with a durable Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. I had dropped the phone twice or thrice without any case, and the phone doesn’t have any cracks, except there are some scuffs on the aluminium frame of the phone. However, there is an issue with my particular Galaxy S21 Plus, the side rails of my phone have started to chip off the paint, below you can see the sample.
The phone feels premium in hand, and you can feel that you are holding a flagship smartphone as it is dense and at 196 grams a bit heavy as well. Overall, the build quality is pretty solid. The screen is strong and durable with the protection of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. Over a course of one year, I can only see some minor scratches on the screen, nothing too major. I have been using the phone mostly with the Later case, which is a very good and premium quality case. You should only buy the cover if you are planning to use your phone for more than a year because the case is a bit on the expensive side.
Also Read- Download New Samsung Camera Expert RAW
Display and the Front
At the front, we have a massive 6.7 inches flat display with a resolution of FHD+ only. The front looks beautiful with its no bezels around, and the reduced chin is very much eye-pleasing, However, I really wish to have a curved display and I miss that from my Galaxy S20 Plus. Also, the PPI of the Galaxy S21 Plus is only 394 which is a bit less for a flagship, they should have given the QHD+ panel for the Galaxy S21 Plus at least. other than that, the phone has an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate that works just fine and goes as low as 47Hz when needed, otherwise, it goes to 60 Hz if you don’t touch the screen for 3 seconds, and the touch response is good, but could be a bit better.
The Galaxy S21 Plus has excellent colours even though it has an 8-bit display but the viewing angles are very good. Watching videos in HDR along with the stereo sound is a delightful experience. The camera cutout of the phone is very small and doesn’t have that silver shiny part around the camera that we have seen on the Galaxy S20 FE and other A series smartphones. The second-generation ultrasonic fingerprint scanner by Samsung has left no room for complaint, it is just perfect and now I cannot use any other optical fingerprint scanner. This one is a fast and reliable fingerprint scanner that works 9 out of 10 times.
The triple camera system of the Galaxy S21 Plus is extremely reliable and after a few updates, currently, the phone has its peak capability of processing images and skin tones. The primary camera is a 12 MP shooter, that clicks good decent images and even though it’s the same lens as the previous year, the skin tones and the colours produced by the Galaxy S21 Plus is way better than what the Galaxy S20 Plus used to have. The images look more natural and the skin tones are now real, unlike previous generations of Galaxy where the skin tones used to be whitewashed. In the low light, the images are a bit grainy if you don’t activate the night mode. The ultrawide is also a 12 MP camera that shares the same lens as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and clicks decent pictures, although the ultrawide shots are not that useful if you click pictures of a group of people using the ultrawide lens, I would still recommend using the panorama mode due to the fisheye effect in the corners.
The hybrid telephoto 64 MP lens is mostly useless unless you are clicking portrait shots in 3x. Since it is not a true telephoto lens and it only crops into 3x with 64 MP resolution to give a lossless experience the phone does get the job done, but a true telephoto would have made more sense, which Samsung has now given with the new Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus. Samsung has improved the colour profiles while clicking pictures in portrait mode, and now we don’t see the artefact effect much while clicking portrait shots, however, in artificial lights, the camera struggles a lot in clicking portrait shots, mostly it comes out grainy and soft.
Coming to the video recording option, I have rarely used the 8K video recording, because nobody wants a 24 FPS video. Mostly I use 1080 60 FPS for video recording and oh boy Samsung does need to work on it. If you record videos in 60 FPS no matter what resolution the phone jitters a lot, especially when you take a panning shot. You can literally see frame drops and jitters, which is very annoying. Also, in artificial lights or a little less light, the 60 FPS video recording is full of noise, which Samsung needs to improve. The Slo-mo video sometimes has stutters in every frame, which is a bit annoying, since occasionally people use slo-mo and that too doesn’t work properly on the phone.
The camera app over the year improved, but it’s still not at all smooth, my 4-year-old OnePlus 6 has a smoother camera app than my galaxy S21 Plus. You can literally feel lag while switching modes, or changing lenses. However, with one UI 4, they have improved it a lot, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement in terms of camera app optimization and smoothness.
Some camera samples are linked here. You can have a look.
Battery and Charging Speeds
The added weight of the Galaxy S21 Plus is due to its heavier battery when compared to the Galaxy S20 Plus which had 4500 mAh of battery. Now the Galaxy S21 Plus has a 4800 mAh of battery which is pretty huge considering it only has an FHD+ display. The phone can charge in about 1 hour and 15 minutes from 0 to 100 with a 25W fast charger, but only if you don’t use the phone at all while it is charging. Otherwise, if you start using the phone, the charging speed drastically drops, and it can take up to 2 hours or even more. For battery life, starting with the phone when it was running One UI 3.1, I was constantly getting around 6 to 6.40 hours of screen time with 17-18 hours of usage.
After the One UI 4 update, the battery life drastically drops to a max of 4 hours of screen time in a similar usage, however, after the January patch of one UI 4, the battery life has not improved a lot, and now I get somewhere between 5 hours of screen time to 7.30 hours of screen time, all while using adaptive 120 Hz turned on and a mix of 4G and WiFi. below I have some screenshots of the battery usage.
Look at the above screenshot I got 7.50 hours of screen time on a 120% of battery usage with 120Hz of refresh rate turned on, mostly on WiFi and account sync and location was turned off. Also, the Quick share and nearby device scanning was also turned off, to save the battery and test the maximum I can get, even though the most used app was Twitter, which is fairly a very lite app, but still, you can manage to get 7+ hours of screen time. I also tested my phone with a 60hz standard refresh rate, and the battery life was more or less the same, so it just doesn’t make any sense to use your phone at 60Hz, also if you use your phone at 60 Hz, you can feel your phone is a lot janky. The Galaxy S21 series is not at all optimized for 60 Hz.
Some other battery usage screenshots are also posted below, to get a rough idea.
Software And Updates
The Galaxy S21 Plus was launched with One UI 3.1 based on Android 11, which was good but not that smooth, although the battery life was on par, there were some animation glitches. But, with time Samsung has improved it a lot, throughout the year. The Galaxy S21 users have got 2 updates in a month. All that effort from Samsung showed off in the UI optimization. But, Samsung should work on providing updates globally at the same time, Samsung is one of those few OEMs who are not using the project treble for updating their phones, and they are also the ones that push updates region wise.
Finally, when Samsung launched One UI 4, Android 12 on the Galaxy S21 Plus, the phone became a complete finished product with its optimized UI and animation. The new colour palette feature isn’t that good, but Samsung is improving it with One UI 4.1. I would say it is one of the best UI of Android skin, however, I still don’t like the app opening and closing animations of One UI, and Samsung can improve on that. I use almost all of the Samsung apps, like Samsung Pass, Samsung Pay, Samsung Internet etc. These Samsung apps are very much optimized and are good for productivity.
Speaking of Ecosystem, I have a Galaxy tab S5e, Galaxy Watch 4 and a Galaxy Buds Pro. All of them works pretty well between each other, especially the seamless connection of buds is so handy and works pretty good. Samsung’s ecosystem is pretty underrated, and in my opinion, it almost provides everything that the Apple ecosystem does, except a few features that I am sure Samsung must be working on. They have come a long way in cleaning their UI and optimizing their UI, and now they are the number one brand in Android to provide updates to their smartphones.
Processor And RAM
The Exynos 2100 on the Galaxy S21 Plus is pretty good. If you compare it with the snapdragon 888 SoC. The Exynos 2100 CPU is on par with the Snapdragon 888 in terms of efficiency as well as power. However, it is the GPU where the Exynos 2100 lacks way behind the Snapdragon 888. For gamers, I would say Exynos 2100 will be able to give you 60 FPS, but for a long gaming session, I will still suggest Snapdragon 888 phone because Mali GPU cannot handle the sustained load at all and it throttles, on the other hand, Adreno is very much optimized and is supported by developers as well. If you compare the Geekbench scores of the Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888, it is on par, below is the screenshot of the Geekbench 5 score of my Galaxy S21 Plus.
The Galaxy S21 Plus is a very underrated smartphone and provides a lot for its value. Also, now Samsung promises 4 years of Android updates and 5 years of security updates for the Galaxy S21 series. I don’t think so I will be upgrading this year to Galaxy S22 series. As my Galaxy, S21 Plus provides me enough for my usage, and currently, I don’t think the upgrade from Galaxy S21 to S22 is that big of a leap. I will wait for another year or maybe will try the Z series this time.