MANILA - The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, especially its two-tone phantom violet variant, is one good looking gadget. As a GenXer who is partial to black and dark grey devices, I was surprised at how much I actually liked what Samsung did with the colors and designs of its latest flagship line.
Place the S21 in a row of similar gadgets and it will stand out. If you’re an NBA fan, the S21 might even remind you of a popular franchise that’s been on a roll lately. After all, the phantom violet colorway looks like slightly muted purple and gold.
The way that Samsung solved the camera bump problem is pretty creative. The S21’s sleek metal frame flows into the camera module creating a seamless whole. Samsung calls this the “Contour Cut Camera Design” and says it was “made to turn heads.”
While I have yet to wave this phone in public and get some real-world confirmation about heads turning, I have to agree that this is a very fresh design. Samsung has always tried to carve out its own style, and this is definitely one of its better choices.
But besides the stand-out design, there’s a lot of other cool stuff to like about the S21 5G.
Since this is part of a flagship series, there’s no surprise that it also has the latest specs. Our review unit featured Samsung’s Exynos 2100 chipset that has 8 cores, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Units sold in the US, and China meanwhile feature the comparable Snapdragon 888 chipset, according to Samsung.
The S21 also features a 6.2-inch display, which Samsung says further improves on the brightness and contrast of the already excellent screen of the previous Galaxy S generation. The S21 can brighten up its screen to 1,300 nits, up slightly from the S20’s 1200 nits. What that means is that you can whip out this phone in direct sunlight and still see and read what’s on the screen.
The screen’s refresh rate has also been kept at a butter-smooth 120Hz. If you’ve ever used a 120Hz screen, going back to a phone with a 60Hz screen really feels like a downgrade.
Powering all of this is a beefy 4,000mAh battery that proved more than enough for me for a day of browsing, video and games.
In terms of camera hardware, the S21 has pretty much kept the camera system of its predecessor but added a few software enhancements.
The S21 features a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 64-megapixel 3X telephoto lens, along with a 10-megapixel selfie camera.
The S21 also retains the 30x zoom of the S20, but now with a “Zoom Lock” feature that makes it easier to stabilize your shot.
There’s also a new “Director’s View” mode for video that makes it easier to switch lenses while shooting.
Photo quality, as expected, is excellent. Its portrait mode is impressive.
Video is pretty good too, and the S21 can shoot 8K footage at 24 frames per second and 4K at up to 60fps.
I know that 5G has been a feature on Samsung phones for a while now, but since Globe finally installed 5G near our place, it’s nice to have a phone that could actually access the internet at speeds like these.
But probably the most remarkable thing about the S21 is its price. It’s actually cheaper than the model it replaces. While both the S10 and S20 were priced at P49,990 at launch, the S21 starts out at P47,990. The P2,000 price drop might not seem much, but it’s a welcome discount nonetheless during these times.
To achieve this price drop, Samsung admittedly shaved off a few premium features from the older phones. The body of the S21 is made of polycarbonate plastic, instead of glass.
Samsung also bumped down the display resolution to 1080 x 2400 on the S21 from 1440 x 3200 on the S20.
But these changes were hardly noticeable. The back of the S21 still feels good and premium in the hand, and the screen is still sharp and clear, with a pixel density worthy of a flagship.
One thing that may put off people who are just getting into the Samsung ecosystem is that, like Apple, Samsung doesn't ship the S21 with a charger anymore. You get a USB-C cable, and that's it.
But all in all, the S21 is a good-looking gadget that delivers solid performance in terms of speed, storage, camera and battery life. If you’re on the lookout for a high-end phone, this is something you ought to give a look.