Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line-up strategy, on the face of it, seems very clear. In a band of around Rs 45,000 you have the choice of three very distinct Android phones. The assumption seems to be that a user will have a variety, a distinct portfolio of phones to choose from, according to what they need it for. You want a top-notch Android phone but don’t have an extravagant budget? The Galaxy S21 might be your pick. You want a phone that is a no-holds-barred premium Android smartphone experience? The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is what you would want to splurge on. But as is always the case, there is some complication that the middle child has to deal with. In this case, the Samsung Galaxy S21+, or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus.
Please allow me to illustrate what I’m on about. First, the most important aspect of any new smartphone consideration. The price tags. The Samsung Galaxy S21 is the entry point to the line-up, with prices starting Rs 69,999 before you add-on the best possible deals—and this phone is available in two configuration and four colour options. Then there is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra which is priced Rs 1,05,999 onwards—this can be had in two configurations and two colour options. In the midst of this sit two configuration options and three colour choices of the Samsung Galaxy S21+, with prices starting Rs 81,999. In a way, it does make sense. Someone who has the budget to spend around Rs 80,000 on a phone will not make a perceptive compromise on a phone that costs lesser. And vice versa, when it comes to the inability to stretch the budget. Therefore, every phone does have a price band it is the strongest in, and that’s the most vibrant aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone line-up.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ Price: How Much Do I Need To Spend?
Let us first look at the exact variants on sale at this time. There is the 8GB RAM + 128GB storage option that costs Rs 81,999 while the 8GB + 256GB option sets you back by Rs 85,999. Between the two, it is pretty much a no-brainer that you should stretch that budget and spend on the latter. What you’ll get in comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S21 is a bigger display and a slightly higher capacity battery, with the rest of the specs pretty much the same. The display is a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED instead of a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED, a Gorilla Glass Victus back instead of a plastic back and the battery is a 4800mAh one instead of 4000mAh.
So, how much does the Samsung Galaxy S21 cost, you ask? That’s also available in two similar spec options and is priced at Rs 69,999 and Rs 73,999. Personally, I’d recommend a larger display option to most users, simply because the display real estate is pretty much priceless when you are reading, watching something on Netflix, editing a photo or simply whiling away time on Twitter or Instagram. If that’s what your budget allows, go for the larger display. And in this specific case, consider the Samsung Galaxy S21+.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ Design: This Visual Brilliance Will Not Age, For A Long Time
In many ways, the entire Galaxy S21 lineup adopts a refreshed design language. Yet, the unmistakable Samsung design elements still very much figure prominently. It is still a very solid mix of glass and metal, with a frosted glass figuring at the back. It is the Gorilla Glass Victus, the strongest and the most rugged glass there is for the smartphone ecosystem at this time. As I switched from the slightly larger Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra to the Samsung Galaxy S21+, the straight 27-gram reduction in weight immediately felt like a big difference—while I love large screen phones and the bulk that comes with it, this could be a rather important observation for those who don’t like heavy phones. The Samsung Galaxy S21+ tips the scales at 200 grams, which isn’t at all heavy in the present-day Android flagship smartphone space.
Visually, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is quite exciting too. What I have here as the review phone is the Phantom Violet colour option, while your other choices are Phantom Gray, Phantom White and Phantom Pink—with some of those colours limited to a specific variant.
A lot of thought has gone into the overall design of the Galaxy S21+. The curve on the spines is just the right amount, and the phone snuggles nicely in the hand. Yet, the biggest testament to the attention to detail has to be how Samsung has not only kept the camera bump on the back well in check, but also incorporated it into the overall design language and added a new visual dimension out of it. It isn’t easy to meld the camera bump into a smartphone design, also keeping in mind the multiple sensors that now make up the photography experience.
You may notice this eventually, but the Samsung Galaxy S21+ gets a full flat display. It isn’t the curved side display type that the larger sibling has. Yes, there is definitely the line of thought that curved displays are better for edge swipe gestures, but to be honest, that advantage is lost once you plaster a case on the phone anyway.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ Performance: One Of The Fastest Android Phones Right Now
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ is powered by Samsung’s latest Exynos 2100 processor (at least in the Indian market), whereas the US units are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip. These newest pieces of processing power are the biggest testament to the big performance leap that the Samsung Galaxy S21+ gets over the already very powerful predecessors. In terms of the performance, this is without doubt faster than last year’s Exynos 990, and there is a specific reason for that—it remains cooler for longer. In my opinion and based on what I have experienced, the Exynos 2100 does a significantly better job of staying cool, at least comparatively, which means it is able to hold performance for longer. The other advantage—the battery life also remains robust. You may not exactly notice the definite performance boost for the most part because we are comparing this with a predecessor that is already very powerful, but you’ll certainly see the improvements when you game or really multitask on the Galaxy S21+.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra that gives you the option of 12GB RAM or 16GB RAM, the Galaxy S21+ instead offers 8GB RAM as standard across all variants. That, in my opinion, is more than enough for most users and use-cases. That’s also helped by the new and faster storage module. The storage has been upgraded to a faster UFS 3.1, swapping out the UFS 3.0—that means even faster read and write speeds, which add to the overall performance experience. All of it makes a difference. And over time, Samsung has been quietly improving the One UI interface wrapped around Android, in terms of visual tweaks, under-the-hood optimizations and just setting everything in place.
Battery life is quite robust as well. A fully charged 4800mAh battery of the Samsung Galaxy S21+ returned 4 hours and 37 minutes of screen time and there was still 40% battery remaining. This, when the screen was in adaptive refresh rate mode up to 120Hz and the Power Saving Mode has not been turned on at any point. It proves beyond doubt that everything Samsung has done on the hardware as well as the software side, with the Samsung Galaxy S21+, is optimizing the battery performance for better stamina.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ Display: The Magic Of 120Hz Will Keep You Captivated
The display real estate has to be one of the strong points of the Galaxy S21+. A quick look at the underlying specs first. This is a 6.7-inch screen with the 2400 x 1080 resolution, can go all the way up to 120Hz refresh rate and is the Dynamic AMOLED 2X canvas. As we had mentioned before, just like on the back, the display also gets a layer of the Gorilla Glass Victus rugged glass. From the outset, this screen looks impressive. Pretty much from the time you switch on the phone for the first time, this display just delivers on the visual aspect without really faltering at any point. It seems vivid to the point that the accuracy isn’t really compromised, is sharp which makes reading the written word quite comfortable.
It is bright, so much so that its rated at 1300nits of brightness. That’s a wee bit lesser than the 1500nits brightness of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but you can be rest assured that this is a nicely lit screen that doesn’t struggle at all under bright sunlight or with ambient lighting reflections. One of the first things that I did was switch on the adaptive display refresh rate mode to enjoy the scrolling and motion smoothness when the display bumps up all the way to 120Hz. This is an adaptive refresh rate display, which means that irrespective of whether you select 60Hz or 120Hz, that’s essentially the maximum it’ll go to. Depending on what’s on the screen at the time, it’ll intelligently clock down to save battery.
Yes, this screen doesn’t go all the way up to 3200 x 1440 resolution like its larger sibling, but all said and done, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ does the fine balancing job. It may just be that for most phone users, a higher resolution display may actually remain grossly underutilized. Colors in the Natural screen mode look nice and subdued, great if you are working on documents, browsing the web or even reading. Switch to the Vivid option, and everything just livens up ever so slightly, and that’s apt for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video streaming sessions.
One observation though, I do not see an option to switch down to a lower resolution in the display settings on the review unit. Is that an omission on purpose or something that will be fixed with a firmware update, hard to say. Not that you’d really miss the option though, because this screen looks pristine.
Samsung Galaxy S21+ Camera: No Spec Sheet Wow, But Hats Off To The Consistency
It’s a triple-camera system on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S21+ consisting of a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel wide lens and a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens. In a way, this is quite similar to what we saw on the Galaxy S20+ last year, but there are significant changes behind the scenes to ensure it isn’t the same camera system anymore. Overall, what works is the fact that the triple camera system does very well on the detailing and dynamic range aspects, at least for the well-lit and outdoor shots. Colours aren’t unduly rich, which gives you enough headroom to edit photos later. If anything, the colours in the photos does seem to be slightly on the cooler side, which allows for the whites to also come through quite nicely without getting “offed” in the process.
The Samsung Galaxy S21+ camera can do 1.1x optical zoom and 3x hybrid zoom, while the digital zoom goes all the way up to 30x. In my observations, 3x hybrid zoom does a fantastic job when the lighting is good, but you may notice some artifacts if the ambient lighting isn’t enough. It is pristine in good light and should also work really well outdoors. Anything up to 7x digital zoom is really usable too, but beyond that, noise tends to show up quite significantly.
The thing about the Samsung Galaxy S21+ camera is that it is mighty consistent and does what it is supposed to do, for the most part. Yet, it doesn’t have any standout feature or functionality, in the same way that its more expensive sibling does. For someone spending around Rs 80,000 on a phone, that may be akin to leaving a slightly sour taste. But then again, the Galaxy S21+ does deliver the photos you need pretty much as how you’d want them. And that consistency should make up for anything it misses out on the spec sheet.
The Last Word: This Is Pretty Much The Android Flagship For Most Users
The middle child, we have often seen, has to work the hardest to make itself visible. The youngest one is always loved the lot and the eldest one often has the license to boss (or guide) everyone around. The Samsung Galaxy S21+, being the middle child as it is, doesn’t really lose its poise when delivering on exactly what potential buyers would want—experience and longevity. The tweaked design language simply works very well, including how easily it snuggles in the hand for a large phone. The display is excellent all round, and even better with the 120Hz refresh rate in action. Robust battery life, really fast and future proof performance as well as a consistent camera make for a phone that’ll simply work for most users.
That being said, it has to be noted that the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones usher in the new era where there is no charger in the box. Hold on to your existing one. And to be honest, we mostly end up using the old chargers with a new phone anyway.