Galaxy S21 hands-on | First look at the S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra

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We got an early hands-on with the new Samsung Galaxy S21 range including the base S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra.

They’re releasing more than a month earlier than anyone had anticipated – Friday, January 29, 2021. But good news, you don’t even have to wait that long to find out how they feel in the hand. TechRadar has already got hands-on time with all three phones, including the gem of the lineup, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Now – before we tell you about the design and specs of the S21 series, here’s one more delightful twist: All three new Samsung phones are cheaper than their predecessors, starting at 799 dollars in the US, 769 pounds in the UK, and 1,249 Australia Dollars in Australia.

That’s a significant 200 US dollars less than the S20 at launch. To put it another way: Samsung is matching Apple’s iPhone 12 mini starting price – only with the Galaxy S21, you’re getting a full-size flagship phone with a larger display, 3x camera zoom capabilities, and an almost 80% larger battery capacity. Value is why Samsung tops our best phones list yearly.

‘Everything Epic’ is the marketing tagline for these phones, and that’s true… if you buy into Samsung’s vision for the future of non-foldable smartphones. I’ll explain what that means in a minute. The S21 and S21 Plus sport 6.2 and 6.7-inch screens respectively,

– both flat instead of curved and running with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate in Full HD+. You can’t get QuadHD on these two S21 phones, but 1080p is a more-than-adequate resolution for most people. The in-screen fingerprint sensor area is now larger in the S21 lineup, meaning your wayward thumb has a better chance at logging into your phone than it did when using the previous two generations of Samsung’s handsets.

The 5G speeds here are among the fastest on the market, packing in both mmWave and sub-6 antennas, and the S21 and S21 Plus offer either 128 gigabytes or 256 gigabytes of internal storage paired with 8GB of RAM.

The S21 comes in four colors: Phantom Gray, Phantom White, Phantom Violet, AND Phantom Pink, while the S21 Plus has Gray, White and Violet, so you’re basically losing pink if you opt for the larger 6.7-inch screen. The Ultra pares it down to two colors: Phantom Black and Phantom White.

All of the colors have a matte finish that look top-notch next to last year’s S20 series, which had this reflective sheen that almost looked plasticy and cheap. What’s ironic is that the back of the better-looking S21 is actually made of plastic – OR reinforced polycarboNATE, as Samsung calls it. This is one of the ways Samsung slashed the S21 price by $200. Most people won’t notice the difference between the plastic back of S21, and Gorilla Glass used by the S21 Plus and Ultra.

Remember when I said the S21 series feeds into Samsung’s ‘Everything Epic’ tagline – if you buy into Samsung’s vision of the future of traditional phones? The company wants you to let go of some more smartphone staples this year besides that glass back in the entry-level model: gone is the microSD card slot for expandable storage, and the charger from inside the box.

If you just got over the lack of the 3.5mm headphone jack, you may have trouble with these changes. Samsung, like Apple before it, is reducing e-waste and selling chargers separately at a reduced price.

The camera upgrade, while mostly software-focused, softens the blow of this news. The S21 and S21 Plus have three rear cameras with an improved night mode, and a tweaked portrait mode (no longer named Live Focus).

You get 12MP photos out of the main and ultra-wide cameras, and 64MP photos from the telephoto camera with a 3x zoom ––– there aren’t many camera specs changes here for Samsung fans, but keep in mind zoom is entirely absent from both the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12.

Samsung has enhanced its Single Take camera mode that captures both photos and videos at the same time – it can now do slow-motion video, too – and the all-new Director’s View lets you vlog with both the front and rear cameras recording simultaneously. All of the cameras – front and back – are capable of capturing 4K video at 60 frames per second, and the main rear camera can do 8K at 24 frames per second, although it’s very cropped in.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is where things get very different year-over-year: it has a 6.8-inch curved screen that’s capable of that QuadHD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate at the same time.
Read more on techradar.com

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