For the past couple of years, Samsung has been releasing three models in each of their main Galaxy S phones and the S21 series is no different. While the top of the line Ultra model gets all the attention, this year’s S21 Plus is something to consider.
Design & Hardware
The Galaxy S21 Plus shares some design elements with the Note20 Ultra, most notably with the matte finish on the back along with a body made from metal and glass (specifically Gorilla Glass Victus).
The phone feels great to hold in your hands, it’s not as big and unwieldy as an Ultra model or as small as a standard S21.
Displays have been a strong suit for Samsung flagships and the S21 Plus is no different, the phone has a 6.7-inch AMOLED with a 120Hz refresh rate and an FHD+ resolution. The S21 Plus’ screen looks great and gets really bright (up to 1300 nits of peak brightness) along with HDR10+ support.
While the S21 Plus doesn’t have the WQHD+ resolution of the S21 Ultra, the S21 Plus’s FHD+ should help battery life. If you have used a phone with a high refresh rate, then you know there’s no going back from it. Having a 120Hz display on the S21 Plus makes everything feel super smooth when navigating the phone.
One thing to note is that there are only two options for Motion Smoothness, Adaptive which adjusts the screen refresh rate up to 120 Hz and Standard which keeps the display at 60Hz.
Like other Android phones these days, the S21 Plus has an in-display fingerprint sensor. I’m not the biggest fan of in-display sensors since they don’t work reliably but the one on the S21 Plus does work better than previous Samsung flagships. There’s also the option to use Face Unlock instead.
Powering the S21 Plus is the Snapdragon 888 processor with 8GB of RAM. In everyday use of the S21 Plus, I experienced no slowdown issues and everything was smooth.
While past Galaxy S models featured a microSD card slot, the S21 series goes without. So whichever storage capacity you choose, either 128GB or 256GB of storage, that’s what you’re stuck with.
For battery, the S21 Plus features a 4,800 mAh battery which depending on usage, can easily last all or day and even into the 2nd day. When it comes to charging the S21 Plus, it supports up to 25W wired fast charging, 15W Fast Wireless Charging, as well as reverse wireless charging.
To get up to 15W Fast Wireless charging, you’ll need a compatible charger like this official Samsung one.
Following in the footsteps of Apple, Samsung has decided to not include a wall adapter in the box. So when you buy any of the S21 models, you’ll get the phone, manuals and a USB-C cable and that’s it. If you want an official Samsung charger, you’ll need to pony up $25 CAD.
Canadian pricing for the S21 Plus can be found below (as of writing this review in May 2021):
- 128GB/8GB RAM – $1,209.99 (Normally $1,399 CAD)
- 256GB/8GB RAM – $1,209.99 CAD (Normally $1,469 CAD)
For comparison, the S20 Plus in Canada was $1,579 CAD for the 128GB model and $1,779 CAD for the 512GB model.
The S21 Plus and the rest of the S21 series is available now from the following retailers and carriers:
In Canada, the S21 Plus is available in a number of colours including Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Violet and two Samsung.com exclusive colours, Phantom Gold and Phantom Red.
The S21 Plus is running Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.1 on top. Samsung announced last year that select Galaxy devices will be getting three major Android OS upgrades. So for the S21 series, you can expect to get at least Android 13 or 14.
With One UI 2.0, Samsung gave their skin a design overhaul and with One UI 3.1, it’s more of tweaking the look and feel.
Some of the standout features of One UI 3.1 include Google Discover feed integration. Meaning that when you swipe all the way to the left you can access Google news and search instead of Samsung Free.
Samsung has also integrated the Device Controls feature that came with Android 11, it allows you to quickly access your smart home device in a few taps.
There’s also Google Duo integration in the Samsung dialer app and video call effects including one keeping you in focus.
You can read more about One UI 3.1 here.
For cameras, the S21 Plus offers a triple-lens setup with a 12MP ultrawide, 12MP wide-angle and 64MP telephoto, along with a 10MP front camera.
While the S21 Plus doesn’t have the Space Zoom feature of the S21 Ultra, you can get up to 3x hybrid zoom (which is a combination of optical and digital zoom).
Using the camera on the S21 Plus is really quick and the photos looked great with quite a bit of detail and colour that pops. The overall image quality of the S21 Plus photos was up there with the likes of the Google Pixel and iPhones.
The Night Mode on the S21 Plus was also great but it wasn’t always the quickest. But it did turn out some good results. And if you want more fine-tuning with photo capture, the S21 Plus’ camera app includes a Pro Camera mode.
The S21 Plus is capable of shooting in up to 8K video but limited to 24fps. Typically I found myself shooting in 4K 60fps and 1080p 60fps. The camera app also includes a Pro Video mode included on the S21 Plus that lets you shoot at 8K 24fps, 8K 24 fps at 21:9 aspect ratio and up to 4K 60fps at 21:9 aspect ratio.
Videos look great and feel very life-like with rich colours and details are shown.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is a great device that is a good middle ground between the cheaper S21 and more expensive S21 Ultra.
- Beautiful 120Hz display
- Great battery life that easily lasts a day
- The matte finish makes it easier to hold
- Solid performance with no slowdowns
- Great camera with good video and low-light performance
- No MicroSD card slot and storage maxes out at 256GB
- No wall adapter included in the box
- The in-display fingerprint sensor doesn’t work all the time