For more than a decade, the Galaxy S line has been a brand in the mobile phone industry. THE Samsung managed to carve its name as a reference in the market, which makes each update expected not only by the product itself, but as an indicator of the direction of the market Android as a whole. This is the case with the Galaxy S21, announced this Tuesday (9), for the suggested price of R $ 6.000.
Presented in January, the Galaxy S21 brings a series of novelties, although not all are necessarily positive for the final consumer, showing a clear path for the company and the market.
Check out the analysis:
No fear of disturbing
Let's start with the most boring part. In a past that seems increasingly distant, Samsung presented itself as an antithesis of Apple. While the competitor promised a “fenced garden”, with several restrictions for the consumer, the Korean company maintained a history of giving alternatives to the user, with an open system without removing resources.
Over time, however, that differential has died away. A victim in recent years, for example, was the entry of headphones, which disappeared first on iPhones and after a few years of presentation as a differential, also disappeared on the Galaxy line devices.
In 2021, there are two trends that I don't particularly like and that I consider hostile to the consumer and were added to the Galaxy S21. First, Samsung removed the microSD card slot from its 2021 line tops; second, the company decided to accompany Apple and set aside the plug adapter for charging, offering only a cable with USB-C at both ends.
The justification for removing the adapter is the same as Apple's: to reduce trash and material waste, with the explanation that most people already have a compatible charger. However, not everyone has a plug adapter that is USB-C ready, or has a device compatible with the input. It is common for notebooks and desktops to have only type A USB ports (the rectangular one), which can force a good base of buyers to purchase a separate adapter.
For the lack of memory card slot, Samsung's answer was to give the device a good volume of internal memory, with 128 GB, which may be enough for a part of the public. Among "power users", who took advantage of the available slot to accumulate as much data as possible on the device, probably not. It is a change that may not have a real impact on the usability of the majority, but it is one less option.
Performance and battery
The Galaxy S21 that can be purchased in Brazil has an Exynos 2100 chipset, produced by Samsung itself, with eight cores, four dedicated to demanding tasks and four for those that do not require much resources, allowing to save energy. The model to which we had access has 8 GB of RAM. To summarize: it is more than enough.
In my time with the device, I was unable to find any functionality that would stress the hardware's capacity to the point that it would choke and, frankly, it wasn't possible to expect anything different. Since even the heaviest Android apps and games are adapted to work on 2020 chipsets, a 2021 processor has no difficulty holding the bar.
Thus, the Galaxy S21 is a good alternative to what is called “future proof”: a device that today offers more than its usability requires, but which should continue to deliver satisfactory performance in a few years' time, when the requirements of the ecosystem increase.
For reference, the AnTuTu benchmark app lists as Xiaomi's Mi 11 as the fastest device in the world based on data accumulated up to January, with an average score in the range of 700. The S21, however, consistently reaches 650, which is enough to make it the second most powerful Android on the planet, with a technical tie between the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and the ROG Phon 3, from Asus. Benchmark rankings are not necessarily very reliable, as the results can be artificially inflated, but they give an idea of the scenario: the device leaves nothing to be desired in relation to competitors.
The trend is that the first bottleneck to be faced by a user in the future, in a few years' time, will be 8 GB of RAM. As a rule, the amount is more than enough for a good use of Android, but there are already a wide variety of devices with 12 GB or even more. Thus, the S21 with 8 GB may start to close applications in the background and find it difficult to switch quickly between open apps and multitask before direct competitors, but again, at present this is nowhere near a problem.
And then we got to the battery issue. It is not possible to complain about the device in this sense, and not only because it has a reasonably high battery capacity, with 4.000 mAh. The device also has a more economical screen, with 1080p resolution, which reduces energy consumption by the most demanding component. The technology used in the panel also contributes to this: with a Dynamic AMOLED display, the display does not waste energy illuminating black pixels, which also helps to provide a good autonomy for the device.
In the end, the Galaxy S21 easily withstood more than a full day of normal use, which is what you might require from a device these days.
Since at the point above we already touched the screen, let's take the opportunity to elaborate a little more. It is indisputable that there was a downgrade compared to last year's models. The option for the Full HD + format, with a resolution of 2400 × 1080, is economical in several aspects, both in terms of finance and battery, but in terms of image quality it is a return compared to the S20.
It is a risk that Samsung seemed not to be afraid to take, since cell phone screens are naturally small, to the point that the change not the difference in pixel density on the screen is difficult to perceive for those who are not looking for it. So it is a downgrade, but it takes effort to realize what has worsened.
But if the resolution worsened, Samsung brought other features that add more qualities to the panel. One of them is the adjustable refresh rate, which was already a brand of the company's devices last year and was expanded in 2021. The panel is capable of adapting it in a range that varies between 48 Hz and 120 Hz, depending on the requirements of the moment: when the content is more static, like reading an article on a website, the rate may drop to the minimum level to save energy. In games or other moments that benefit from a higher rate, it rises to represent maximum graphic quality; one moment when this is noticeable is in the fluidity with which the navigation through the cell phone interface takes place, with very smooth animations.
Unfortunately, Samsung saved the main novelty in terms of update rate for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. In the model, it is possible to vary between 10 Hz and 120 Hz, which provides an even more drastic energy saving when the consumed content allows. The standard Galaxy S21 doesn't have that.
It is also worth noting that the S21 also reaches higher brightness peaks than the previous generation, with 1.300 nits compared to the 1.200 nits of the S20. The result is that the device offers excellent readability even in bright sunlight.
There is no arguing: the S21 is quite similar to last year's Samsung devices. At first glance, the only difference that I could see is the rear camera module, which was a spine that rose "out of nowhere" and is now integrated into the side frame of the device.
In particular, it took me a while to get used to this design, which I didn't like at first, and the opinion was shared with some other people with whom I talked about the subject. However, as the days went by I got used to it; it is an elegant solution to an unfortunate market demand, which is the spine of the camera, with modules thicker than the thickness of the device. I admit, however, that this change of opinion may have been leveraged by the color scheme of the device sent for testing. The violet-rosé combination is a very pleasant combination.
Another change that may not be immediately noticeable is the side of the devices. For years a brand of Samsung's line tops has been the curved corners of the screen. It was something I didn't like very much; there were countless times when the display mistakenly recognized the palm of my hand while I held the phone and performed an unwanted command. It had its aesthetic appeal, but it was not practical.
The S21 returns to a more conventional format, with the screen completely flat, which brings a gain of usability, but leaves a black line around the display that is not the most beautiful. In the end, they are choices, and I prefer the format decided by Samsung for the S21.
From the beginning, the Galaxy S21 gave me the impression of being a simple evolution of the S20, with no great intention of transforming. Therefore, the evolution of cameras seems to be a major highlight of the new generation of devices.
There are three rear lenses: the main one, with 12 MP and f / 1.8 aperture, a 64 MP telephoto lens and f / 2.0 aperture, which provides a 3x optical zoom, and a 12 MP wide-angle f / 2.2 aperture. , which captures images at an angle of up to 120 °. This setting provides a curious feature for recording videos, which Samsung calls the “Director's Vision”: while you're shooting something, you can switch between cameras in real time; the interface displays the three scenes at the same time, making it easy to find the best image for the moment. It is also possible to integrate the front camera into the image, allowing you to capture your reaction to the recorded scene. It is a combination of features that I imagine can be useful in times of TikTok, allowing creative videos with little effort.
It is also worth mentioning that the Galaxy S21's camera is capable of capturing 8K video, which is impressive while being somewhat meaningless. First, because there are virtually no 8K screens on the market; second, because if someone needs so much resolution, it is probably for professional use, in which case there are better and more suitable equipment. That said, the functionality allows you to capture photos while recording videos without major loss of quality.
It's time to shoot that the S21's camera shines, and that goes for any aspect analyzed. The image below shows how well the device performs in the face of the most challenging scenario that a camera can face.
Didn't you notice? This photo was taken in an office with the lights off and windows closed, with the only light coming from outside the room, from the corridor. The camera software was able to correct this serious lack of lighting and produce a very clear and detailed photo of the bookcase.
In brighter environments, the result is obviously even better, and I am particularly impressed by the depth of camera effect and how the device is able to highlight the image in the main plane.
See some samples:
I also can't help but be impressed with Samsung's “Space Zoom”, which in the case of the S21 can bring images up to 30x closer. Not for the quality of the image, which, frankly, is not worth saving or published on social networks, but for the simple fact that the camera is able to preserve details that do not even seem to exist when looking at the open photograph. For example, the light pole appears to be invisible in the open photo (and was barely visible to the naked eye), but it is detailed enough to be visible with a zoom. It is a function that has little aesthetic use, but for which I can see practical use, to be able to read a sign from a distance, for example.
Samsung has improved on software over the years, there is no arguing, and OneUI has been one of the best Android experiences on the market for some time. This does not mean that the company cannot evolve. On the Galaxy S21 this is evident
First, I'm going to hit the Bixby assistant key forever as long as Samsung insists on the feature. It is wrong for the company to assign the side button of the device, which on any other smartphone in the world serves to switch on and off, to the function of calling its assistant. Yes, the company gives the option to adjust this in the settings, but not just any user is going to dig into fine adjustments in the device, so many will not even understand that this is a possibility and will need to get used to having to perform the command to turn off the device via software. It doesn't make sense to have two personal assistants on the same phone, and Google Assistant is enough, unless you're already fully involved in the Samsung ecosystem, especially in the connected home aspect.
It is also worth touching on the point of bloatware. Samsung started to minimize the number of pre-installed applications on the phone, giving the option for the user to select what they want to keep from the first use, but there are still some apps that I would not like to use and would prefer that they were not installed, as is the case with Samsung Free, but that were there anyway, and the redundant ones, such as Samsung's messaging application, when Google's already comes pre-installed.
That said, visually the One UI is great, allows you to easily manage a number of features and the device has some unique features, such as DeX, which allows you to connect it to a TV or monitor to use it as a desktop, and can be useful in specific situations.
The S21 is a good phone, without a doubt, that hits on several points: an excellent combination of cameras, a pleasant format, in the right size for a good grip, performance and respectful battery. It is also the cheapest in the new Samsung line.
However, Samsung has also made some decisions that make it a strange product given the price at which it is sold here in Brazil. Some decisions were made precisely to make it more accessible, but it is difficult to justify the reduced screen resolution, the absence of any type of adapter for the device's charger in the box and the removal of the microSD slot entry for the price that is charged for it.
Thus, it is difficult to recommend a cell phone at this price. The S21 is a great smartphone, but not for this year. Who knows in a promotion?