“2021’s solely true flagship Galaxy S Sequence cellphone is the Galaxy S21 Extremely, which has extraordinary capacity, notably from the digicam, at a value decrease than its predecessor.”

Extremely succesful, versatile digicam

Stunning AMOLED display screen

Elegant new design

Lengthy battery life

Newest software program from Google and Samsung

Worth is down from final yr

Shaky Wi-Fi connectivity

Intermittent charging issues

Prime-heavy design impacts stability

No MicroSD card slot

Nevertheless candy the brand new design is, the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21+ don’t have the spec sheet highlights we’ve come to anticipate from Samsung’s high S Sequence telephones. To get that true S Sequence expertise, it’s a must to purchase the Galaxy S21 Extremely, which works all-out on energy, display screen, digicam, and battery tech to fulfill hardcore followers.

However at $1,200, the Galaxy S21 Extremely is a substantial funding, actually when in comparison with the $800 Galaxy S21 that we’ve already reviewed. Plus, it faces severe competitors from each exterior — the iPhone 12 Professional Max, for instance — and inside (the Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely and the Galaxy Z Fold 2).

I’m every week into residing with the S21 Extremely, so take into account this a really detailed early look reasonably than our definitive assessment at this stage, however each I and Cell Editor Andrew Martonik might be including our continued ideas concerning the cellphone to this text over the approaching weeks, constructing out our ultimate assessment.

However even after seven days, the Galaxy S21 Extremely’s extraordinary skills are clear, particularly when it comes to the digicam. Samsung’s high S Sequence cellphone could also be right here sooner than traditional, however there’s little question that it has a lot to supply.


Sure, the Galaxy S21 Extremely is a giant cellphone, however the dimensions and weight don’t inform the entire story. The Eight.9mm thickness and 227-gram weight sound pretty regular for giant smartphones immediately, and while you put it subsequent to the S20 Extremely and Be aware 20 Extremely, the footprint is definitely smaller. Nevertheless, that is misleading as a result of it doesn’t put on its heft in addition to both of those telephones, or a lot of the competitors, and it’s all to do with the S21 Extremely’s standout design characteristic — that massive digicam module — and its development.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Somewhat than being a separate module slapped on the again of the cellphone like on the S20 Extremely, the S21 Extremely’s large digicam array is a part of the chassis itself, molded from the metallic, and separate from the Gorilla Glass again panel. It’s a special method than most different smartphones and actually does give the S21 Extremely a singular model — I particularly just like the “hewn from strong metallic” design. It’s additionally quite a bit better-looking than the S20 Extremely. However all this comes on the expense of stability.

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Stability is essential. It’s what makes the cellphone really feel pure in our hand, and retains it protected in our grip. As a result of there’s a giant lump of metallic with 4 digicam sensors on one facet of the S21 Extremely, the stability is barely off. It’s not by a lot, however you start to really feel it after some time. The 227g weight turns into fatiguing after holding it in portrait orientation for a time period, particularly with one hand. It’s not the tip of the world, however when the Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely feels thinner, lighter, and extra balanced in your hand, you recognize you’re coping with a little bit of a beast.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Stability apart, the edges of the S21 Extremely are neatly curved and cozy to grip, the amount and energy buttons are sensibly positioned, there’s no silly Bixby button getting in the way in which, and the matte end physique doesn’t get lined in smudges or fingerprints. On that topic, my assessment mannequin is in Phantom Black, a brand new colour Samsung went into appreciable element about throughout its launch occasion, so is it well worth the consideration or is it simply one other black cellphone? The reply is that it’s truly extraordinarily well-judged, and is likely one of the best-looking black finishes you’ll see, placing it proper up there with the ceramic black Oppo Discover X2 Professional.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

The matte end is damaged up with a shiny Samsung emblem and the chiseled polished metallic surrounding the digicam module, in addition to the reflective glass over every digicam lens. I believe it’s elegant and expensive-looking. There are variations in brighter colours accessible, too, together with some unique colours from Samsung, nevertheless it’s genuinely one of many first instances I can say that purchasing the black one is a superb alternative.

Digital camera

Just like the Galaxy S21 Extremely’s dimensions, the fundamental specs of the digicam don’t mirror what it’s like in actual life. The spec is as follows: A 108-megapixel digicam is joined by a 12MP ultrawide, a 10MP 10x periscope zoom, and a 10MP 3x telephoto zoom. Even with laser autofocus, optical picture stabilization, 8K video recording, and all types of different options, on paper it’s probably not something we haven’t seen earlier than. However in apply, its capacity rapidly makes it obvious that whereas we’ve seen the specs earlier than, we haven’t actually seen them carried out as successfully as Samsung has completed right here.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Let’s discuss concerning the zoom. At 10x and 3x optical zoom ranges, the outcomes are sometimes staggering. There’s plenty of element within the photographs, unmarred by aggressive software program enhancements, leading to crisp, sharp, colourful, and well-balanced photos you’ll be completely happy to share. It does have some issues, although. Put it in opposition to the Huawei P40 Professional — which gave us a extremely succesful 10x hybrid zoom in Might 2020 — and also you’ll discover that the Huawei can seize way more practical colours — and infrequently much more element within the course of. Nevertheless, the S21 Extremely doesn’t underexpose just like the Huawei, making it the extra constantly usable digicam at this zoom stage.

Use digital zoom exterior the optical settings and the standard does drop by comparability to the optical ranges. Evaluate the iPhone 12 Professional’s 2x optical zoom to the S21 Extremely’s 2x digital zoom, and the outcomes are very totally different, with the Samsung cellphone blurring element and shedding out on realism. Bump the S21 Extremely to 3x optical and evaluate it to the iPhone’s 2x zoom they usually’re very related intimately and tone.

Past the 10x optical zoom, the excellent news right here is the photographs are principally usable, and that features as much as 100x. Photographs taken on the most 100x zoom on the Galaxy S20 Extremely had been laughably poor, however on the S21 Extremely, you’ll be able to photograph an indication and it stays completely readable. At 30x, even photographs of wildlife look good — shareable good — and it’s such a welcome shock. If an organization goes so as to add these comparatively area of interest, long-zoom options, they have to be usable, and they’re on the S21 Extremely.

How about photographs generally? Whereas the bodily cellphone struggles with stability, the images produced by the digicam don’t. Gone are the times of Samsung’s radioactive greens and fixed azure skies, changed by a extra pure palette and a ravishing HDR system that works exhausting to deliver out plenty of element, with out ruining environment or the topic. It’s not at all times 100% efficient, however you truly must make an effort to get it off monitor, and there are occasions Samsung reverts to sort and amps up the sky.

The S21 Extremely takes photographs which are immediately pleasing to the attention, and that wasn’t the case with the S20 Extremely. The Be aware 20 Extremely improved on the S20, however the S21 Extremely goes approach past each. I take photographs with it like I do with the iPhone 12 Professional — content material that the outcomes might be nice, and never feeling the necessity to test and retake the shot as a result of I don’t belief it. I’ve not had that stage of confidence in a Samsung digicam earlier than.

I merely haven’t had sufficient time to strive each characteristic on the digicam but, as there are masses. Listed below are a number of that I’ve tried that work effectively, and aren’t seen on different telephones. In Professional Mode for video, there’s a brand new BT Combine audio choice, which lets the cellphone seize audio from a Bluetooth supply and the cellphone itself, offering pure ambient sound paired with narration. I attempted this with a pair of Galaxy Buds Reside, and it’s genuinely very efficient. I can see it being welcomed by vloggers. Single Take mode, the place the digicam captures a bunch of content material from one quick video, provides extra alternative and has more practical synthetic intelligence.

The S21 Extremely takes photographs which are immediately pleasing, and that wasn’t the case with the S20 Extremely.

Director’s View shoots video with all of the cameras on the similar time, and leaves you to decide on which view is used at what time. It additionally provides in a picture-in-picture view from the selfie digicam for reactions and commentary. It really works effectively, and switching between cameras is easy and fast, nevertheless, I’d have preferred to see a complete modifying suite for this mode, with the flexibility to splice in video taken from any of the cameras at any level. With out this, you’re compelled to edit on the fly, with the tip outcome created on the go.

What else? Edge detection has been improved for portrait photographs — Samsung has dropped the previous Reside Focus identify in favor of the extra explanatory Portrait identify right here . The selfie digicam has a pure or shiny setting for higher colours and the A.I.-driven scene recognition works sooner, as does the non-compulsory Greatest Shot scene composition steering. On the draw back, 8K video remains to be a reminiscence hog and meaningless to most individuals, regardless of being technically spectacular.

Galaxy S21 Extremely with the Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely
Galaxy S21 Extremely with the Galaxy S20 Extremely

I’ve not explored the lowlight capabilities a lot but. In darkness, the cellphone does introduce noise because it compensates for the dearth of sunshine, and infrequently smooths clouds and the atmosphere out in conditions with higher lighting. I’m lower than every week and just a few hundred photographs into utilizing the S21 Extremely’s digicam, however in the mean time, it’s effectively on its approach to being the very best Samsung digicam I’ve used, and one of many high cameras accessible in the mean time.

Display screen and efficiency

The 6.Eight-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x display screen helps a 3200 x 1440 pixel decision at 120Hz, however might be switched to a decrease decision to avoid wasting battery life. The refresh price is adaptive, and switches to the optimum setting relying in your actions. The display screen helps HDR10+, and a whopping 1500 nits of brightness.

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Unsurprisingly, it will get extremely shiny, so I’ve not felt the necessity to take it a lot above half brightness. The excessive refresh price may be very efficient, maybe much more so than I’ve seen earlier than, with textual content remaining readable even with fairly speedy scrolling. I’ve left the decision at its high stage all through my time utilizing the cellphone to date. Watching YouTube at 1440p produces very lifelike, extraordinarily engaging content material. For instance, Ghost City Dwelling’s movies are shiny and colourful at this decision, nevertheless it additionally highlights that the default Vivid Display screen Mode amps the colours up an excessive amount of, and switching to the Pure setting in some conditions is less complicated on the eyes.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

The S21 Extremely’s display screen doesn’t have a pronounced curve across the sides, sitting someplace between the S20 Extremely and the Be aware 20 Extremely in that regard. It’s far much less curved than the Huawei P40 Professional. Swiping is comfy, however the cellphone’s top-heavy nature means swiping up from the underside of the display screen actually requires two arms to carry out with security.

Samsung added S Pen stylus assist to the S21 Extremely, and I examined it utilizing the stylus from a Be aware 20 Extremely. Palm rejection is correct, and it’s simple and pure to scribble notes on the display screen. Nevertheless, the cellphone doesn’t assist the Bluetooth operate of the Be aware 20 Extremely’s S Pen, so there aren’t any extra options, just like the distant shutter launch, accessible. There’s additionally nowhere to stow the S Pen when it’s not in use, so it’s questionable how helpful this characteristic will ever be. You should buy an unsightly case for the S21 Extremely to carry the S Pen in case you’re actually set on having it, although.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

I’m utilizing a Galaxy S21 Extremely with the Samsung Exynos 2100 processor, which is used within the U.Ok., Europe, and components of Asia. Within the U.S., the cellphone makes use of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. Each have 12GB of RAM in case you select 128GB or 256GB of space for storing, or 16GB of RAM with 512GB of space for storing. Sadly, there’s no MicroSD card slot on the S21 Extremely, so select fastidiously right here, as that’s all of the bodily space for storing you’ll have.

Oddly, on the time of writing, Asphalt 9: Legends shouldn’t be suitable with my Galaxy S21 Extremely, robbing me of my traditional go-to sport. As a substitute, I performed Actual Racing three and Loopy Taxi, and skilled no efficiency points in any respect, simply as you’d anticipate from a cellphone with this stage of energy. It shrugged off each different process in the identical approach, and I’d be stunned if something most individuals do on a cellphone will tax it.

Safety and connectivity

Samsung has lastly upgraded the atrocious fingerprint sensor, and never used the endlessly unreliable sensor fitted to the S10, Be aware 10, S20, and Be aware 20 telephones. The brand new, bigger ultrasonic sensor is an immediate enchancment as a result of it truly works while you need it to, and it does so on the primary strive for probably the most half. It nonetheless wants some tuning, and one software program replace has already improved it, however there’s quick and dependable face recognition for the instances it messes up. Unlocking your Samsung cellphone has by no means been really easy.

Though the S21 Extremely has 5G, I do not need 5G protection in my native space, so have been unable to evaluate its efficiency. Its 4G LTE connectivity has been much like different telephones, however Wi-Fi has not been completely dependable. Each previous to and after a prerelease software program replace, the cellphone hasn’t maintained a powerful connection to my house Wi-Fi, even when near the router.

Connection points manifested when watching YouTube movies, as 1440p variations would continually buffer, however switching to 720p cured the issue. Additionally they arose when downloading sport information, the place the connection would cling or randomly disconnect. I’ve not skilled this with every other machine, together with the Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely. It’s more likely to be a software-related subject, one which must be fastened with an replace, and isn’t affecting my colleague’s cellphone. Due to this fact it has not affected the general rating, and we’ve knowledgeable Samsung concerning the subject.

Software program

My assessment S21 Extremely has Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI three.1 interface excessive, and the January 1 Android Safety Replace put in. One UI three.1 shouldn’t be drastically totally different from One UI 2. You continue to have the identical massive, daring icons and the identical easy transitions and general reliability, plus the identical little annoyances. Visible modifications are exhausting to identify — the PIN code entry display screen has been redesigned with easier-to-press buttons and a blurry background, screen-on notification alerts are smaller and fewer intrusive, and the amount slider controls are larger.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Samsung’s alternative of energy controls are nonetheless annoying. The Facet Key (it’s not an influence key, in keeping with Samsung) prompts Bixby, and also you entry energy controls by way of a software program button within the notification shade. Even then, it doesn’t present the wonderful Android 11 energy menu with Google Pay and good house controls — it’s simply the standard Samsung energy and restart buttons. That is the default setting and the Facet Key’s performance might be modified below the settings in case you search for it.

Samsung Pay and Google Pay stay alongside one another, however Samsung has eliminated the Magnetic Safe Transaction (MST) characteristic, which was used to idiot previous cost terminals into considering you swiped a bodily card. Helpful in just some areas around the globe, its elimination will certainly frustrate some, however NFC — which the S21 Extremely helps for Google Pay — is so commonplace that most individuals gained’t have used MST within the first place.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Samsung Every day, the ineffective swipe-in panel with information and different nonsense that sat to the left of the house display screen, has been changed by a Samsung Free, which appears to focus solely on information from the Upday service. It’s additionally horrible, however might be changed by the marginally much less horrible Google Uncover web page, or switched off fully. Bixby can also be on board. I’ll say the voice recognition may be very correct, however I merely can’t discover a cause to make use of it over Google Assistant.


It’s nonetheless early days for assessing the battery efficiency on the Galaxy S21 Extremely, however the indicators are good that the 5,000mAh cell will simply final a full day, or doubtlessly two working days with gentle use. It helps 25W quick charging, 15W wi-fi charging, and reverse charging.

That is how my preliminary use has panned out. Beginning round 9 a.m. with a full battery, the S21 Extremely dealt with an hour of podcast streaming, some photographs, basic social and internet use, an hour of YouTube, some gentle gaming, and being related to a smartwatch. It ended the night time with round three-and-a-half hours of display screen time and 29% battery remaining. It’s in step with the battery life I get from a Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

There could also be some energy consumption variations between the Exynos and the Snapdragon-powered S21 Extremely telephones. Martonik, DT’s cellular editor, is utilizing a Snapdragon S21 Extremely, and ended a day with 50% battery remaining after 15 hours, together with two-and-a-half hours of display screen time.

There’s no charger included with the Galaxy S21, and whereas I don’t suppose it is a drawback by itself, I’ve had some points with charging utilizing third-party chargers. I’ve charged the cellphone every night time I’ve been utilizing it, and on three of these events it has charged by about 20% and stopped. I solely realized this within the morning. I’ve been utilizing a Google Pixel four charging block and cable. I’ll proceed to observe this and experiment with different chargers. In the identical approach because the Wi-Fi subject, it has not affected the assessment rating and we now have knowledgeable Samsung. It’s more likely to be an remoted drawback, because it doesn’t have an effect on my colleague’s S21 Extremely.

Worth and availability

The Galaxy S21 Extremely is out there to pre-order now, with deliveries anticipated beginning January 27. It’s accessible by way of Samsung’s personal on-line retailer, Amazon, and different retailers, plus most carriers. The 128GB model prices $1,200, the 256GB model prices $1,250, and the 512GB model prices $1,380. Within the U.Ok. the S21 Extremely prices 1,149 British kilos for the 128GB mannequin, 1,199 kilos for the 256GB mannequin, and 1,329 kilos for the 512GB mannequin.

Our take

Let’s take this one step at a time. The Galaxy S21 Extremely isn’t the largest cellphone on the market, nevertheless it actually looks like it’s, nevertheless, the brand new design and selection of colours are Samsung’s finest but. The digicam is flexible and intensely succesful, and there’s extra energy than you’ll ever want from the processor, however there are some minor software program and connectivity issues. Samsung’s staple of delivering a surprising display screen continues, and the worth is considerably decrease than its predecessor, however final yr proved you don’t actually must spend greater than $1,000 to get a very wonderful smartphone. The upsides nonetheless undoubtedly outweigh the downsides.

The place the Galaxy S21 Extremely actually wins is when its positioned alongside the opposite Galaxy S21 smartphones. It’s the one one that really seems to be and looks like a flagship S Sequence mannequin. Samsung’s shake-up of the vary and pricing construction means in case you really wish to personal the most recent and biggest S Sequence cellphone, by which we imply the very best tech accessible in probably the most fashionable physique, the S21 Extremely is the one and solely model for you. The excellent information is, you gained’t be disillusioned while you get it.

Is there a greater different?

There are two main rivals to the Galaxy S21 Extremely: The Apple iPhone 12 Professional Max and the Samsung Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely. The iPhone is a bit of cheaper, has an outstanding digicam, is arguably extra compact and straightforward to gap, and the software program and long-term possession expertise is superb.

The Galaxy Be aware 20 Extremely could have a barely older processor however you most likely gained’t discover, and whereas the digicam isn’t fairly so succesful, it nonetheless takes wonderful photographs. It’s slimmer and higher balanced, plus it comes with the S Pen stylus, and there’s someplace to maintain it too. It’s additionally rather a lot cheaper than the S21 Extremely.

Both of those are extremely advisable. In case you don’t thoughts spending more cash and wish to stick to Samsung, then the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is superb and can actually flip heads with its folding design, or if you wish to save a bit of cash and prioritize the digicam’s capacity, check out the iPhone 12 or the Google Pixel 5.

How lengthy will it final?

In case you take out a two-year contract, the S21 Extremely will nearly actually nonetheless really feel recent on the subject of an finish. There’s no cause it gained’t proceed to serve you effectively for an additional yr after both.

In case you deal with the cellphone correctly, it must be hard-wearing too. It has an IP68 water- and dust-resistance score, and the display screen is roofed in Gorilla Glass Victus, which is claimed to withstand injury in falls of as much as two meters. We wouldn’t put this to the check, nevertheless it does point out the display screen will deal with being taken out and in of baggage and pockets, and endure basic use with out accumulating scratches.

The software program put in on the time of writing is totally updated with Android 11, OneUI three.1, and the most recent Android Safety replace. Samsung just lately dedicated to offering three Android updates to numerous units, together with the S20 collection, so it’s cheap to anticipate the S21 collection could have the identical profit. Nevertheless, there’s no understanding how quickly the updates will arrive in your cellphone after launch by Google.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. It’s probably the most superior Android smartphone you should buy in the mean time, and crucially makes actually good use of the high-level tech it accommodates.

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