Lightning Review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G


The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G was made available in Malaysia in late January 2021. Here’s my lightning review of the latest smartphone from Samsung after two weeks of using it.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G key specifications:

  • Body: 151.7×71.2×7.9mm, 169g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), plastic back, aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins).
  • Display: 6.20″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate (48~120Hz), HDR10+, 1300 nits (peak), 1080x2400px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 421ppi; Always-on display.
  • Chipset: International – Exynos 2100 (5 nm): Octa-core CPU (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55), Mali-G78 MP14 GPU
  • Memory: 256GB storage, 8GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
  • OS/Software: Android 11, One UI 3.1.
  • Rear camera: Wide (main): 12 MP, f/1.8, 26mm, 1/1.76″, 1.8µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚, 1/2.55″ 1.4µm, Super Steady video; Telephoto: 64 MP, f/2.0, 29mm, 1/1.72″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 1.1x optical zoom, 3x hybrid zoom (up to 30X digital zoom).
  • Front camera: 10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm, 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound recording, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 4000mAh; Fast charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W,
  • Reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasonic); NFC; Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified- no Magnetic Secure Transmission), ANT+, Bixby natural language commands and dictation.

The Price: This is Samsung’s cheapest Galaxy S21 among the 3 smartphone that was announced (the other two are (Galaxy S21+ 5G and Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G). Price at RM3699 it comes with a lot of value, including support for 5G and top of the line processor.

The Build: The back of the Galaxy S21 5G is made of plastic but its really comfortable to hold. You could easily use it in one hand and it will fit easily inside a pocket. The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass Victus. It is also dust and water resistant.

The Display: As usual, its the best you get from Samsung. Although limited to 1080p resolution, it has a Dynamic AMOLED, sharp flat display and up to 120Hz refresh rate.

The Camera: There’s 3 rear camera- Wide, Ultra Wide and Telephoto and it all works very well under good lighting condition. From what I have noticed, Samsung improved the pictures taken in night mode although it took a few seconds more to process and a steady hand for a decent quality photo. The selfie camera pictures was also great and you get to pick between ‘Natural’ and ‘Bright’ modes. This is the first Galaxy S series phone with 8K recording although its limited to 8K@24fps. What’s missing is a laser autofocus and macro mode.

The Audio: There’s two speakers, one from the earpiece and a bottom firing. The speakers are excellent and loud, premium quality. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack but the experience was great with the Galaxy Buds Pro bluetooth earphone (sold separately).

Performance: I didn’t notice any lag with the new flagship Exynos 2100 (5 nm) chipset and 8GB RAM. You can open a number of apps, play videos…no lag with One UI 3.1. There shouldn’t be any issues with gaming.

Battery: I was getting almost all day usage (approximately 4-5 hours of screen on time) with the 4000mAh battery. Charging is fast (around 50% in 30min) if you use a compatible Qualcomm Quick Charge 25W charger (not included in the box).

What’s Missing with the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G: No charging adapter, no type-c earphones in packaging, no microSD card slot, Samsung Pay without support for Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST)

My recommendations: The Galaxy S21 5G is a great smartphone for its price. If you prefer a compact smartphone and don’t want to spend too much for a high end smartphone – this is the right phone for you.

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