Samsung Galaxy S21: we took it in hand, here are our impressions

 Samsung has just announced its new line of smartphones: the Galaxy S21. Cachotiers that we are, we already took them in hand earlier this week during a presentation at Samsung's premises.



More efficient, more beautiful too, the new Galaxy S are also cheaper than those of last year. So should we fall for these new 5G compatible smartphones? We will give you our first impressions, before a more detailed test which will arrive - we hope - next week.


 Truly attractive formats



At first glance, the Galaxy S21 does not upset the formula inaugurated by their predecessors. We are still facing a range made up of three separate devices, ranging from 6.2 inches for the Galaxy S21 to 6.8 inches for the S21 Ultra, passing by the S21 + and its 6.7 inches.



The smallest of the three is undeniably appealing to those who appreciate compact smartphones. Rather light (around 170 grams), it benefits from an elongated shape that promotes grip (20: 9 screen). In addition, Samsung signs this year a step back on curved screens. A fashion of which he had nevertheless been among the pioneers with his Galaxy Note Edge in 2014.



Like the Galaxy S20 FE released at the end of the year, the panel of the S21 and S21 + is perfectly flat. Personally, that suits me perfectly. I can't help but conclude that while smartphones with curved screens are very flattering to the eye, they really aren't the most convenient to use.



The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, displays a very slight curvature on its edges. Anecdotal, in the sense that it is barely noticeable compared to other models. We can admit, however, that this helps to differentiate him somewhat from his brothers in arms.

In terms of user comfort, we must admit being surprised by the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Last year, the S20 Ultra was so massive it was hard to pick it up without worrying about dropping it accidentally. But we have to admit that Samsung's latest addition appears to us to be more compact than Apple's recent iPhone 12 Pro Max.



A pleasant surprise, even if in the end our choice would be the Galaxy S21 + which, with its 6.7-inch diagonal, appears to us as a perfect compromise between reading comfort and ease of use.



A successful design

Samsung hates being stuck in the design of its devices. Although the chassis of the new models does not change much, their aesthetics are being pulled upwards thanks to excellent ideas.




 How not to notice this new block of cameras? Still located in the upper left corner of the back of the smartphone, it blends in with the outline of the device. This does not prevent it from overtaking, and therefore creating a kind of instability when the smartphone is laid flat, but I must admit that this makes it a singular object that manages to perform well in the market of 'today.

Even the Galaxy S21 Ultra which, however, displays no less than four photo modules, to which must be added the laser and the LED flash, is found much better highlighted. In comparison, the Galaxy S20 Ultra would almost pass for a prototype.





 Note, however, that the back of the Galaxy S21 is made of plastic, like the Galaxy Note 20 released this summer. Only the Galaxy S21 + and Ultra benefit from a glass back (Gorilla Glass 7). Honestly ? You hardly notice the difference with the eye, and with the finger. Bluffing.



Some software additions to note

For the second year in a row, Samsung is making much of the zoom capabilities of its new smartphones. Up to 30x on the S21 and S21 +, and 100x on the S21 Ultra. In other words, at this focal length, it is better to have your arm stationary to take a correct photo.



Well, it was better, one should say. The new Galaxy make it possible, thanks to the integrated optical and electronic stabilization, to 'freeze' the scene when using a zoom with very long focal length. There are two ways to do this: either by tapping on the screen preview at the top left of the viewfinder, or by standing still for 1 to 2 seconds. Afterwards, the smartphone will do everything to stabilize the sensor, allowing you at least to breathe normally without fear of missing your intake. A great idea.




This year, Samsung is working hard on video. While it is not yet to offer 4K Dolby Vision at 60 frames per second as at Apple, the Galaxy S21 range adds a few strings to its bow.

It is now possible to shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second on all focal lengths, but also to adopt a so-called 'director's' view, which allows you in particular to shoot the front and back of the phone simultaneously thanks to the camera normally dedicated to selfies. The result is a single video file, on which the user unfortunately does not have the choice to move the integration of the video stream before.



But the 'director's view' mode also allows you to have a real-time preview of the rendering of a scene with the different lenses of the smartphone. For example if you start filming at wide angle, you will be able to see live on screen what it would look like using zoom, or ultra wide angle. A simple press on the desired focal length allows it to be used.



Another novelty, reserved for the S21 Ultra this time: the possibility of combining QHD + definition and 120 Hz refresh rate. As a reminder, it was previously necessary to choose one or the other, on the Galaxy S20. Confident about the capacity of the 5,000 mAh battery to withstand the shock, Samsung is proposing to combine these two aspects this year. Recall that, on the S21 and S21 +, the definition is anyway capped at Full HD +.



And the S-Pen in all of this?

To be honest, I expected Samsung to put more emphasis on the arrival of the S-Pen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It is not so ; the accessory is not there to revolutionize things. He's just… incidental.

Sold separately (€ 39.90, or € 79 / € 99 with a protective cover), the S-Pen allows you to navigate your phone and take notes on the fly. It benefits from the same features as the latest models seen in the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Tab S7, namely 4096 pressure points and a latency of 9 ms.





Note, however, that the Galaxy S21 Ultra's S-Pen only allows you to enjoy screen-related features. In other words, you can't take advantage of the Bluetooth features which, in particular, allow you to use the stylus as a remote control.

Another detail that we did not see coming: all S-Pen previously released are compatible with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. If you already have an old Galaxy Note lying around in a drawer, its stylus can be used on your brand new smartphone.




In short, a lot of noise for not much in the end. How to imagine that a Galaxy Note 21 is well in the boxes? 'See you in a few months,' we were told at Samsung.


Samsung Galaxy S21: our hot feeling

While not revolutionary, the Galaxy S21s seem to be keen to pull up on the formula initiated on the Galaxy S20s last year. As such, this new range is not intended for those who have already fallen for a Samsung last year, but more for users who will have to renew their device this year.

Relying heavily on its design, for lack of much else to offer, the Galaxy S21 is undeniably attractive. Especially since Samsung wanted to clarify its range. No more 4G versions which complicate the price list. The next generations will be 5G or not.

We also appreciate the lower price (the entry ticket drops by 150 € between the Galaxy S20 5G and the Galaxy S21). Even if this is done at the price of the microSD port and the charger, which will no longer be included in the box.

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