Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely Evaluation: The Finest But

There are all types of concessions you could pay to a cellphone relying on elements like value or its standing inside a model’s portfolio; with regards to the Professional Maxes and Ultras of this world, nonetheless, there’s far much less room for error.

Simply as hypercars have emerged as a category above supercars, so too have telephones just like the S21 Extremely within the flagship area – billed as uncompromising units that may deal with something a person dares to throw at them, with out a lot as breaking a sweat – albeit for a premium, in fact.

The idiom ‘the larger they’re the tougher they fall’ felt apt for final yr’s Galaxy S20 Extremely, which promised a lot – primarily from its impressive-sounding digital camera specs – however underdelivered as a remaining product. With this yr’s S21 Extremely, we’re hoping Samsung has righted the wrongs of its predecessor and in the identical breath, created a smartphone really becoming of the ‘Extremely’ moniker.

Design and construct

There is not any getting round the truth that aesthetically 2020 was an off-year for Samsung’s Galaxy S telephones. The S20 Extremely was probably the worst offender of the bunch; with its giant shiny type rendered in flat colors and laden with an unpleasant black rounded rectangle of a digital camera association, that appeared like an afterthought.

Nearly one yr on and whereas the S21 vary is undeniably an evolution of the S20 line’s design, it is skilled one thing of a “glow-up” that brings sharper aesthetics and extra assured types to the desk.

The Galaxy S21 and S21+ might flip heads with their two-tone signature Phantom Violet colourway however the Extremely is available in much more sedate finishes that draw the attention to the cellphone’s type in the beginning, and that is no unhealthy factor.

The ‘contour lower’ digital camera module is the brand new defining design ingredient throughout this yr’s Galaxy S vary and the Extremely’s interpretation is the boldest and most imposing but, spanning nearly half of the cellphone’s width (it is so huge that the cellphone really advantages from less-severe wobble when positioned back-down on a flat floor, in comparison with the narrower digital camera preparations of its launch siblings).

Within the case of the Extremely, there was no approach this module wasn’t going to be enormous although; with 4 imaging sensors – together with a 108Mp main digital camera – a periscopic zoom association, a laser autofocus system and an LED flash to accommodate.

Quite than contrasting colors, it is the contrasting textures that give the S21 Extremely a extra subtle appear and feel than its competitors; with a shiny colour-matched steel body towards a lightly-textured satin-finish again and digital camera frontage that collectively imbue the cellphone’s aesthetics with a delicate confidence, whereas additionally deftly repelling fingerprints and smudges.

One thing in regards to the different Phantom Silver colourway evokes the stylings of classic 80s Japanese tech and grant the cellphone a definite retro really feel because of this, whereas the two-tone carbon-fibre-toting Samsung.com-exclusive finishes appear poorly-considered and executed by comparability – notably the Phantom Brown possibility.

Past end, the rounded edges and barely curved Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back be certain that regardless of its dimension, the S21 Extremely feels snug to carry. This sizeable 6.8in handset – with its all-glass-and-metal development (for reference, the bottom Galaxy S21 includes a plastic again) – additionally proves deceptively light-weight, regardless of clocking in 228g.

Being a Samsung flagship, there’s the anticipated top-tier match and construct high quality, the absence of a headphone jack and IP68 mud and water resistance to contemplate too.

Show and S Pen

Whereas 0.1in smaller than final yr’s entrant, you are still getting an expansive 6.8in panel to play with; utilizing the identical WQHD+ decision, 20:9 facet ratio and HDR10+-compliant ‘Dynamic AMOLED 2X’ know-how.

There was little to complain about with the display on final yr’s Extremely and whereas the expansive dimension and the rounded edges will not be to everybody’s style, the S21 Extremely’s show is a pleasure to work together with; boasting beautiful distinction, vibrant colors, broad dynamic vary and pin-sharp readability that nothing else (save for maybe Oppo’s Discover X2 Professional) collectively comes near matching proper now.

One small enchancment is a most peak brightness of 1500nits (up from 1400), though each this yr’s and final yr’s telephones provide wonderful visibility regardless, even in vivid environment.

The place the S21 Extremely’s show pulls out in entrance is with its capacity to show content material at each its native decision and at its most 120Hz refresh fee, concurrently. Final yr’s Galaxy S and Word units had you select between full decision or super-smooth viewing; with the S21 Extremely, there are not any compromises to be made on this regard.

Whilst you can lock decision, refresh fee (below the ‘Movement Smoothness’ setting) can solely be dialled from ‘Customary’ (60Hz) as much as ‘Adaptive’; which implies the Extremely would not run at 120Hz continuously however as an alternative routinely scales from as little as 10Hz to a peak of 120, relying on the use case at hand. This dynamic adjustment is not distinctive to Samsung’s units however serves as a necessary technique of guaranteeing respectable battery life, whereas additionally nonetheless delivering excessive refresh fee viewing.

Past a top-tier visible expertise, the display additionally showcases an upgraded ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which lastly feels genuinely aggressive towards older capacitive sensors (just like the one discovered on the again of the Pixel 5), due to improved learn velocity and, maybe extra importantly, extra constant reliability.

S Pen

One different show celebration piece is – for the primary time on a Galaxy S cellphone – help for Samsung’s S Pen stylus. At launch, Samsung launched two new styli alongside the S21 Extremely; a traditional S Pen and the still-unreleased (on the time of writing) S Pen Professional.

For many customers seeking to pull in Word-like performance, the usual S Pen will do the trick (or when you’ve got an present Word gadget, their S Pens work too). Latency is great (when testing with the Word 20 Extremely’s S Pen), with a seemingly-identical 9ms response time, or one thing very near it (doubtless made potential by its use of an LTPO show, as an alternative of the S21/S21+’s LTPS panel, identical to the Word 20 Extremely).

The primary distinction between the S Pen expertise and that of the one promised by the S Pen Professional is the extra Bluetooth performance that Word 20 customers will already be accustomed to; controlling the cellphone’s digital camera and navigating across the person expertise with easy air gestures. That mentioned, due to the Wacom tech at play, you may nonetheless press the aspect button on the S Pen (even the usual mannequin) when hovering the nib above the floor of the show for added options and features.

Whereas the S21 Extremely is already a extra area of interest gadget in comparison with the usual S21 and S21+, and the subset of those that purchase one who may also think about pairing the expertise with an S Pen is smaller nonetheless, it is good to see that Samsung has introduced as a lot of the established function set of its signature stylus to a product line that beforehand had nothing to do with the peripheral.

Samsung additionally sells quite a few instances that function a cavity to carry the S Pen, as in contrast to the Word, there is no built-in S Pen storage on the S21 Extremely, whereas we’re but to listen to of any storage setup for the S Pen Professional.

Software program and options

The newest construct of Samsung’s person expertise – One UI 3.1 – debuts on the Galaxy S21 vary.

For these accustomed to the earlier era of One UI, this iteration would not rewrite the rulebook nevertheless it does deal with bettering facets like notification readability and gown in a number of new adornments, corresponding to animated name screens.

For these coming from Android units that run nearer to a inventory expertise (Google’s, Motorola’s or Nokia’s, for instance) One UI will take somewhat getting used to, though the educational curve will doubtless be shallower than shifting to a heavier-handed pores and skin like Oppo’s ColorOS, Xiaomi’s MIUI or Huawei’s Emotion UI.

Past the platform’s distinct squircle app iconography and a reworked notifications/fast settings pane (in comparison with inventory), One UI options its personal app retailer within the Galaxy Retailer (which sits alongside the Google Play Retailer), in addition to standout options like Edge Display screen – designed to enhance the productiveness chops of the person expertise – notably helpful on the Extremely’s expansive show.

Similtaneously guaranteeing One UI is distinct, the expertise would not utterly flip its again on the underlying enhancements and tweaks launched in Android 11, with notifications grouped by app class and energetic media playback controls contained inside a devoted carousel within the notifications shade. Samsung Free – Samsung’s devoted information and experiences feed – can be optionally available, with the flexibility to show it or exchange it with Google Uncover, as you’d discover on a near-stock Android gadget.

One other space the place the Extremely units itself other than its launch siblings is in its connectivity; being the one member of S21 vary to boast the most recent WiFi 6E and sharing within the S21+’s UWB (ultra-wideband) help. Past these highlights, the Extremely additionally brings NFC and Bluetooth 5.Zero to the desk.


At launch, the S21 vary options as a part of a moderately unique group of telephones powered by Qualcomm’s newest flagship Snapdragon 888 SoC – or in markets together with Europe and the UK – function the debut units for the corporate’s personal top-tier Exynos 2100 chipset (as within the mannequin examined right here).

These in Exynos-toting areas have, up to now, been pushed to frustration, because the fashions counting on Samsung’s personal silicon have constantly fallen wanting their Snapdragon-based doppelgängers, on the subject of each efficiency and energy effectivity.

Within the lead as much as the Exynos 2100’s launch, nonetheless, Samsung and the early benchmarks prompt that its newest chip would lastly be capable of maintain its personal towards Qualcomm’s 888.

Whereas we did not carry out any side-by-side testing with the Extremely particularly, working with our colleagues at sister web site PC World within the US and our respective Snapdragon and Exynos-powered base S21’s, we learnt that each variants supplied up a lovely consistency.

Within the wider evaluation sphere too, whereas 888-toting Ultras nonetheless have a tendency to steer over Exynos variations, the efficiency hole is insignificant, particularly on the subject of real-world use instances. Energy effectivity does additionally nonetheless favour Qualcomm’s {hardware} however what was as soon as a chasm of disparity is now extra of a crack that we residence Samsung continues to shut.

Within the case of the Extremely, the cellphone’s top-tier silicon comes accompanied by probably the most quantity of (LPDDR5) RAM throughout the S21 vary, with a baseline of 12GB (as examined) and a top-tier 16GB – if you happen to fork out for the very best 512GB storage capability mannequin.

Whereas quick UFS 3.1 storage is appreciated, the removing of microSD expandability throughout the S21 vary appears like a loss, particularly on the in any other case feature-crammed Extremely. The Galaxy S collection has lengthy been one of many final flagship cellphone households to supply such flexibility, so its removing is disappointing right here.

Fastened storage apart, it is exhausting to argue with the remainder of the {hardware} Samsung has chosen to fit into the S21 vary and, particularly, the Extremely.

The outcomes from our benchmarking checks, which embody all three Exynos-powered S21s units, revealed that typically talking, the S21+ delivered probably the most constant efficiency, though the hole between every gadget was negligible.

For these seeking to decide the S21 Extremely up with aggressive cell gaming in thoughts, it is also value dropping decision right down to Full HD+, as graphical checks place it on-par with its launch siblings by doing so (all of that are a few of the highest scores we have examined on any cellphone).

If you happen to’re shopping for a cellphone for efficiency above all else, then proper now, the S21 vary as a complete are among the many finest choices on the market; the extra RAM packed contained in the Extremely, will merely assist make sure the cellphone can extra readily multitask and stay extra responsive within the long-term.

Battery life

Battery capability stays constant in comparison with final yr’s S20 Extremely, at a respectably giant 5000mAh. Contemplating the S21 Extremely is the primary Galaxy gadget to supply 120Hz excessive refresh fee viewing at WQHD+ decision, apart from the benchmarks particularly acknowledged above, the gadget was examined with each these key show options enabled always.

Despite the anticipated pressure operating the show at full tilt undoubtedly causes, the S21 Extremely’s longevity is spectacular, in a position to ship a day’s value of heavy use, and a day and a half of extra typical use; with nearly six hours of screen-on time on provide every cost.

In a market the place corporations like Oppo and Xiaomi are pushing previous 65W quick charging, the S21 Extremely’s most 25W charging speeds sound comparatively pedestrian. Whereas there is no escaping the truth that Samsung is dragging its ft on quick charging (having really pulled again on the 45W charging unique to final yr’s S20 Extremely), in real-world testing 56% cost after 30 minutes is wholly respectable and may see most customers by way of to the day’s finish.

The large caveat with the Extremely is not charging velocity a lot because the charger itself – there is not one, not in-box, no less than. Samsung has adopted Apple’s lead and ditched in-box energy adapters, that means the Extremely is available in rather more compact packaging however may also doubtless cost slower than the marketed most fee, except you have already invested in Samsung’s 25W charger.]

Not like the bottom Galaxy S21, which produced near-identical leads to testing when charging with a generic 27W PD cost and an official 25W Samsung quick charger, for no matter cause – be it the charging administration system tied to the Extremely’s bigger battery or one thing else – the official Samsung charger produced refills the cellphone’s battery markedly quicker than the PD charger, which solely will get the cell to 33% in the identical time-frame.

As such, whereas forking out for an official Samsung charger would not maintain any worth if you have already got a quick PD charger the place the Galaxy S21 and S21+ are involved, it makes a notable distinction when paired with the S21 Extremely.

Digital camera

As touched on earlier, the Galaxy S20 Extremely’s largest stumbling block was a daring digital camera setup that, in observe, underdelivered – primarily because of some problematic focusing points and zoom capabilities that simply weren’t as spectacular as Samsung had hyped them as much as be.

With the S21 Extremely, the corporate has reworked each aspect of this technique and the outcomes converse for themselves. An up to date 108Mp (ISOCELL HM3) lead sensor is now supported by a laser autofocus module (as applied on the Word 20 Extremely) and whereas the autofocus-capable 12Mp ultrawide is simply as you’d discover it on the S21 and S21+, there’s new a twin telephoto zoom system that options devoted 3x and 10x optically-magnified lenses (the latter utilizing a periscope setup). The front-facer can be the very best decision among the many S21 vary, at 40Mp (up from 10Mp).

The largest enhancements to the S21’s digital camera seemed to be software-led, with the S21 Extremely the {hardware} is undoubtedly a step up on final yr. Dynamic vary and autofocus are the obvious enhancements when snapping, and whereas there’s nonetheless the anticipated disparity between the cellphone’s predominant sensor and say, its 10x telephoto, for instance, enhancements to Samsung’s HDR algorithm are clearly in impact in photographs throughout the board.

As for focussing, the S21 Extremely is quicker and much more assured in each discovering and holding focus, in comparison with the S20 Extremely, even in low gentle; which is probably going a results of each the addition of the laser system and the brand new 108Mp sensor’s ‘Tremendous-PD Plus’ tech.

On the subject of the cellphone’s distinctive zoom capabilities, these devoted 3x and 10x lenses constantly end in larger high quality outcomes, and though the improved 100x ‘House Zoom’ remains to be a gimmick above all else, zooming previous 30x now provides in a ‘Zoom Lock’, which helps lock a topic in-frame at excessive ranges of magnification for larger ease of use.

Video seize can be a few of the finest examined on a smartphone, with nice dynamic vary, stability and 0 obvious artifacting; with the flexibility to maneuver between the assorted lenses on the fly permitting for some actually inventive capturing.

The collective end result will not be solely an enchancment on the S20 Extremely and a supply on the guarantees of the cellphone’s advertising however this simply may be the perfect digital camera cellphone in the marketplace proper now, albeit providing completely different strengths to its largest contender, the iPhone 12 Professional Max.

Worth and availability

Regardless of the enhancements revamped final yr’s mannequin, like its launch siblings, the S21 Extremely really arrives with a decrease opening value than its predecessor, albeit solely barely.

The cellphone begins at £1,149/€1,249/$1,299.99 SIM-free for the 12GB RAM/128GB storage SKU. You may double the storage for £50 extra or double it once more and profit from a complete of 16GB of RAM for £1,329 on the absolute prime finish.

You can too decide the S21 Extremely up from the nation’s most respected carriers, together with Giffgaff (who equipped us with the pattern used on this evaluation), who’ll allow you to purchase the cellphone outright (in Phantom Black or Phantom Silver) to pair with one among their versatile Goodybags (together with 5G-ready Golden Goodybags).

If you happen to’d moderately unfold the price, Giffgaff now additionally gives a pay month-to-month handset plan (supplied by Klarna) that prices simply £25 upfront, plus £57.32 a month over a 24-month span.

As for options, true opponents are few and much between proper now, with the aforementioned iPhone 12 Professional Max being the one worthy rival on the market at current, every little thing else sacrifices one thing in a single space or one other, or depends on less-capable {hardware} and software program from 2020.

The S21 Extremely’s early launch in 2021 locations it forward of most of its anticipated competitors, with entries from the likes of Oppo, OnePlus, Xiaomi and even Sony, simply across the nook.


The ‘execs and cons’ listing firstly of this evaluation ought to have been an early indicator of how choosy we needed to be to seek out any notable faults with the Galaxy S21 Extremely. Offered you are already conscious of the product line’s status for giant screens and excessive costs, these facets of this yr’s Extremely should not actually come as a shock.

The S21 Extremely goes to point out that the corporate really listens to suggestions and actions it with the care and a spotlight a four-figure cellphone like this calls for. Each aspect of the cellphone is phenomenal; from its show to its efficiency, battery life to digital camera versatility; the collective impact additionally renders the Extremely one of many biggest all-rounders so far, befitting of its title.

Associated tales for additional studying
Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely: Specs

6.8in WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X 10Hz-120Hz show

Ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor

Gorilla Glass Victus (back and front)

Metallic body

5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888/Samsung Exynos 2100 SoC (market dependant)


128GB/256GB/512GB non-expandable storage

108Mp predominant w/ PDAF, f/1.8, 0.8µm pixels, OIS

12Mp ultrawide w/ dual-pixel PDAF, f/2.2, 1.4µm pixels, 120° FoV

10Mp 3x telephoto w/ dual-pixel PDAF, f/2.4, 1.22µm pixels, OIS

10Mp 10x telephoto w/ dual-pixel PDAF, f/4.9, 1.22µm pixels, OIS

Laser autofocus system

40Mp front-facing digital camera

Stereo audio system

Android 11 w/ One UI 3.1

Samsung DeX help

IP68 mud/water resistance


WiFi 6E

UWB (ultra-wideband) help

5000mAh battery

25W quick charging (consists of PD charging help)

10W wi-fi charging

Reverse wi-fi charging

75.6mm x 165.1mm x 8.9mm

228 grams

Launch colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver

Samsung.com colors: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy, Phantom Brown

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