The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (review) is an impeccable smartphone but it is expensive. This brings us to the next best in the series, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. Priced Rs 81,999 onwards, the Galaxy S21 Plus is a toned-down model if you compare it with the Ultra. But it does not compromise on the key parameters that define the Galaxy S21 series. It boasts 5G network support, an AMOLED screen of 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, triple rear cameras capable of recording videos in up to 8K resolution, Dolby Atmos-powered stereo speakers, IP68-rated for water and dust resistance, and a big-capacity battery with fast-charge support. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra gets you the best. But can the same be said for the Galaxy S21 Plus overall? Let’s find out.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Design
The Galaxy S21 Plus is designed on the same blueprint as ther Galaxy S21 series smartphones. It has minimal design with comfortable ergonomics for ease of use. It has a premium glass-metal construction with Gorilla Glass Victus protection on the front and back. Starting with the rear profile, the phone comes in three colour options – phantom violet, phantom silver and phantom black. The phantom silver variant (review unit) has a reflective frosted glass cover on the back that bends inwards from the sides to meet the frame. Speaking of the frame, it is made of metal and extends around the rear-camera module. With frame engulfed, the otherwise protruding rear camera module looks part of the overall package and not a disarrayed unit slapped on the phone.
The frame aids the design quotient of the Galaxy S21 Plus, especially the side profile, but it does not go beyond aesthetics to add to the utility. That said, the phone looks uniform from all sides but some design irregularities come to notice in everyday use. For example, the protruding camera module on the back makes the phone wobble a bit on flat surfaces. Moreover, the razor-thin power button and volume rocker keys on the right side of the frame are other design elements that are operationally not very user-friendly. Though within reach, they are somewhat hard to press and require an effort every time you need to press them.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Display and audio
This second-best smartphone in the Galaxy S21 series has some serious downgrades in display and display techs. Instead of a two-side curved display on its predecessor, the Galaxy S21 Plus gets a flat 6.7-inch dynamic AMOLED 2x display. Though the display supports a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, the screen resolution has been toned down to fullHD+ instead of the QHD+ in the Galaxy S20 Plus (review).
Despite downgrades, the Galaxy S21 Plus display is by no means incompetent or bad. It is bright, vivid and responsive. It remains legible under direct sunlight and is easy to read irrespective of light conditions. The screen boasts an adaptive refresh rate, which automatically switches between 48Hz and 120Hz based on on-screen content requirements. In real-life usage, the content appears sharp and the user interface transitions appear smooth.
The display is complemented by stereo speakers powered by Dolby Atmos. The speakers are loud and clear, and have a good surround-sound effect. For gamers, there is a dedicated ‘Dolby Atmos for Gaming’ audio profile in sound settings; it amplifies the speakers’ performance in select game titles.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Camera
The Galaxy S21 Plus brings the same camera set-up that was part of the Galaxy S20 Plus as well, except for the time-of-flight (ToF) sensor. The phone boasts a 12-megapixel primary sensor (OIS) of an f1.8 aperture, a 12MP ultra-wide sensor of an f/2.2 aperture and 120-degree field-of-view (FoV), and a 64MP telephoto sensor (OIS) of an f/2.0 aperture. On the front, the phone has a 10MP sensor of an f/2.2 aperture.
Details aside, the cameras’ performance is good, if not exceptional. The primary rear camera is tuned to capture images with saturated colours. It takes detailed shots with a good dynamic range, highlights and shadow details. The ultra-wide sensor is good too. It is a bright sensor with a wide FoV, apt for taking landscape shots. The sensor manages to flatten out distortions on frame edges to make the output look linear. Unfortunately, this sensor does not double up as a sensor for close-up shots (macro). It is limited to ultra-wide-angle imaging only. That said, the Galaxy S21 Plus rear camera lacks the versatility of the Galaxy S20 Plus. The third sensor here is a telephoto one, which enables up to 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom. While the images zoomed at 3x look decent, those captured at 30x turn out to be full of noise and lack detailing. In fact, anything captured beyond 3x zoom shows quality deterioration.
Coming to the front camera, it is a good performer and takes decent portraits with a balanced mix of natural details and artificially induced beauty. It creates a smooth bokeh in daylight conditions but struggles in low light. Thankfully, there is a dedicated night mode for lowlight selfies, and it works well in most cases.
With regard to videos, the Galaxy S20 Plus can record videos at up to 8K resolution at 24fps. Moreover, it is capable of recording 4K videos at 60fps from all camera sensors, except telephoto. Unfortunately, you cannot switch between sensors while recording a 4K video at 60fps. It is, however, possible in 4K videos at 30fps. As for the value-added features, you can now pull out a high-resolution screen grab from 8K videos. Moreover, the phone features the director’s view mode, which shows videos from each rear sensor in real time. This feature adds good value to user experience, especially for content creators.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Performance
The Galaxy S21 Plus is powered by the Exynos 2100 system-on-chip, paired with 8GB RAM (LPDDR5), and up to 256 GB (UFS 3.1) of on-board storage. The phone’s performance is smooth and free from any visible flaws. Importantly, there are no thermal issues and the performance is consistent, irrespective of usage. The phone boots Android 11 operating system-based OneUI 3.1 user interface, which is a delight to look at and easy to operate. However, there are instances of advertisements in the user interface that look cheap and hamper the overall user experience.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Battery
The Galaxy S21 Plus ships with a 4,800 mAh battery, supported by 25W fast wired charger (sold separately) and 15W wireless charger (sold separately). On-battery time is good, and you get around a day of battery life with a fully charged battery. Charging time is fast, but not blazing fast. It takes around two hours for the battery to charge from zero to 100 per cent using a supported 25W fast charger. Wireless charging is slow and sluggish and takes about four hours to fully replenish a completely drained battery.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Review: Verdict
The Galaxy S21 Plus brings some serious upgrades over the predecessor with regard to design and performance. Besides, it brings 5G network support, which future-proofs you for the time 5G services roll out in India. Therefore, consider the Galaxy S21 Plus for its exquisite design, sleek performance and all-round connectivity. Otherwise, you are better off with the Galaxy S20 Plus, which is now significantly cheaper and excels over the Galaxy S21 Plus on display and camera parameters. If not averse to Chinese brands, you might like to explore the Xiaomi Mi 10 and OPPO Find X2, both of which offer more for prices significantly lower than what you pay for the Galaxy S21 Plus.