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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G Review: It’s Super Small, But Mighty Nonetheless

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G was recently announced on the global stage, and it was immediately unveiled for the Malaysian market complete with pricing and pre-order details. To help you decide with your purchase, we have the Galaxy S21 – the smallest of the S21 family – for review, and here’s our thoughts. But first, let’s go through the specs.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G – Specifications

SpecsSamsung Galaxy S21 5G
Display6.2-inch Flat FHD+
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Infinity-O Display (2400×1080), 421ppi, HDR10+ certified
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate (48~120Hz)
Eye Comfort Shield
Dimension and WeightDimension: 71.2×151.7×7.9mm
Weight: 169g (sub6)
Camera[Front camera]
10MP Dual Pixel AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 1.22µm

[Rear camera]
Triple camera
Ultra Wide: 12MP FF, FOV 120°
F2.2, 1.4µm
Wide-angle: 12MP Dual Pixel AF, FOV 79°, OIS,
F1.8, 1.8µm
Telephoto: 64MP Phase Detection AF,
Hybrid Optic 3X, FOV 76°, OIS
F2.0, 0.8µm
30X Space Zoom
CPUSamsung Exynos 2100
Memory8GB RAM + 256GB Storage
Battery4,000mAh
ChargingImproved wireless charging speeds with Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
USB PD 3.0 (PPS) certified Fast Charging for wired charging (AFC and QC2.0 compatible)
OSAndroid 11
Network and Connectivity5G NSA/SA, Sub6
Ultra Wideband
PaymentNFC, MST
AuthenticationUltrasonic Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor
Proximity sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
AudioDual Audio
Scalable Codec
Water ResistanceIP68

Design

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G has a superbly streamlined design this time round. It has a thin and slim bodyline, with a super lightweight chassis that weighs only 169g. On the back, it now also has a smooth matte finish.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The major overhaul in design this year is with the camera bump, where it merges together nicely with the side of the phone. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant design and it gives the phone a unique touch of elegance.

On the right, there’s the power and volume buttons, while the SIM tray, speaker, and USB Type-C port can be found at the bottom.

Display

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21’s display is one of my favourite features of the phone. The screen now has a flat edge, which makes it more comfortable for me when it comes to navigation. There’s an Infinity-O notch in the middle of the screen that houses the 10MP selfie sensor. Considering the screen’s overall size, the front keyhole notch is just the right size and doesn’t feel too big or intrusive.

Being the smallest of the family, the Galaxy S21 5Ghas a 6.2-inch FHD+ display with a Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel, and a HDR10+ certification. The screen may be small, but it’s packed with a colour accurate and battery efficient screen thanks to the AMOLED panel. What’s most important is that it has an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, that can vary from 48 to 120Hz. This further improves battery life because the display can intelligently scale the refresh rate on its own according to what app or game i was playing.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

Visual quality wise, the Galaxy S21 5G has one of the best displays I’ve ever got to experience. It has so much more contrast, and the colours are vibrant. The display can go extremely bright, and it works great under direct sunlight. However, the colours might fade a tad bit when the brightness is set to 100%.

User Experience

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G is a much smaller phone than what I’m often used to, and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air from all those smartphones trying to offer the biggest displays. You are getting more screen real estate with a bigger display, but that also means it has a larger footprint in your hands and navigation may not be one-hand friendly. Thanks to the size and heft, it’s extremely pocketable, and I really appreciated the fact that I could navigate through the device with just one hand.

The Galaxy S21 5G is not the first phone to have a 120Hz refresh rate, but it is one of the smoothest I’ve ever used. Paired with the new Samsung One UI 3.0, every animation just flows cohesively with every touch and swipe. The touch sampling on the screen is extremely responsive, so every animation immediately starts flowing without any jerking, and it’s just an absolute pleasure to navigate with the screen.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G Review: It's Super Small, But Mighty Nonetheless 14
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The power and volume buttons are aptly placed on the right side of the phone, and the SIM try has been moved to the bottom so that the left and top edges of the device are left seamless. The back of the phone does have a matte finish, but the metallic sides give a rather good grip which makes it less slippery than expected. I got the Galaxy S21 in Phantom Violet, and it resists sweat and fingerprints like a champ. I could barely see any smudges after using it for prolonged hours of gaming.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

Equipped with the latest Exynos 2100 processor, the Galaxy S21 5G performed excellently both in daily use and in benchmarks. The new Exynos was a big jump from its predecessors, and I’ve never experienced any lag, screen hang, or stuttering throughout my use of the phone. Apps launched very quickly, and it was done justice with the 120Hz refresh rate screen.

Here are some of the benchmarks we’ve done on the Galaxy S21 5G with 3DMark and GeekBench 5. Look at that jump when we compare processing power between the Galaxy S20 Ultra with Exynos 990 and the S21 with the Exynos 2100 chip.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G may have one less camera than its bigger siblings with the triple camera system, but it’s by no means inferior. It still has the same 64MP telephoto main sensor, 12MP wide-angle sensor, and 12MP ultra wide-angle sensor, along with the 10MP sensor on the front for selfies and video calls.

The 64MP takes great pictures with extreme clarity. It also supports 3x optical zoom, with a space zoom rated at 30x. Even pictures taken zoomed in, the finer details are still retained with vivid colours. The Zoom Lock feature also really helps when you’re trying to capture something really far away with the 30x space zoom.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

OIS on the main telephoto and wide-angle sensor really helps with stabilizing video recordings. Despite not having a dedicated gimbal, the phone does a great job at taking steady handheld videos.

The camera UI itself feels much faster than previous Galaxy smartphones, as there’s less delay when you’re switching between modes. The shutter button responds fast and doesn’t delay when you’re trying to take quick shots. The Single Take feature has also been improved, and it now has a few new modes to get you an even wider variety of shots with just one click.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

Despite having only a 10MP sensor for selfies, pictures still come out bright and clear. Samsung toned the beautification down a little so it doesn’t look too fake, and that’s great because selfies come out looking more natural.

Here are some of the photo samples we took with the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G:

Audio

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G is equipped with a stereo speaker setup, and I have to say, it sounds superb. When it comes to volume, it may not be as loud as some other smartphones. But even at 100% volume, you can’t hear any distortion at all, which is amazing. Sound isolation is great, and each frequency is well separated that they don’t drown each other out.

The highs are bright, with very crispy mids. When I first heard Gulf of Alaska Bay by Priscilla Abby on the S21, I felt goosebumps. Her vocals were brought front and center and the instrumentals were still clearly heard from the sides. Moving on to the lows, I was quite surprised the phone could still offer decent amount of bass. EDM and pop tracks sounded great with well-managed bass.

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The real kicker here is when I was doing the sound testing, my wife thought I was playing audio through my Edifier speakers. That itself says a lot about the phone’s speaker performance.

Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

The Galaxy S21 5G’s battery may seem small on paper for today’s standard, but it’s no sloucher when it comes to endurance. Day-to-day use, I was able to casually use the device for a day and a half. But when there’s more work to be done, more texts and emails to be replied to, it could still get me through the entire day with 20% battery left to spare. That’s also enough for a game or two of Arena of Valor before sleep.

The Galaxy S21’s new packaging design doesn’t come with an included charger, so we had to use our own Ugreen 65W GaN charger. Since it supports 25W fast charging, charging the Galaxy S21 from zero to 100% took about one hour and 15 minutes, which is surprisingly efficient. The best part is, it also supports fast wireless charging, albeit slower than wired fast charging.

Conclusion

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

For a flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G packs generally the same punch the Plus and Ultra has, and it stands firm on its ground. Having the Exynos 2100 chip, it gives the smallest Galaxy S21 immense value, especially if you’re into small and compact phone designs. The camera is excellent at capturing photos and videos, even in lowlight situations.

For Samsung’s asking price of RM3,699, you’re actually getting a whole lot more value if you purchase the Galaxy S21 5G during the pre-order period. With every pre-order, you’ll receive a free Galaxy Buds Live, a Galaxy SmartTag, and a Samsung Wireless Charger Trio. That is insane value if you already have the budget to splurge on a flagship smartphone.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G Review: It's Super Small, But Mighty Nonetheless 14
Written By

Chief Content Developer at The AXO

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