At Samsung’s Unpacked event on January 14th, the South Korean phone-maker unveiled its three newest flagships, the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra. While there’s a lot to be excited about these new devices, it’s also worth taking a moment to compare them to their predecessors, the Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra.
There are a lot of things different this time around, and the most important is the price. The base Galaxy S21 is $120 cheaper than last year’s S20, the S21+ $179 cheaper than the S20+ and the S21 Ultra is $200 cheaper than the S20 Ultra. Considering many felt the S20 line was too expensive, a drop in price is welcome. However, some might feel the corresponding tradeoffs aren’t worth it.
Starting with the S21 and S21+, both devices sport displays with lower 1080 x 2400 pixel resolutions compared to the 3200 x 1440 pixel resolutions on the S20 and S20+. While the resolution downgrade is certainly upsetting, in the long run, I don’t think it’ll be that bad. Last year’s Galaxy phones couldn’t run their higher 120Hz refresh rate at the native resolution, so users had to pick between using a lower res and higher refresh rate.
In MobileSyrup’s testing, we all found the 120Hz refresh more noticeable than the resolution, and for the most part, we all preferred using the phone that way. With that in mind, the lower-res display here likely won’t be an issue for many people.
However, these devices have a few other ‘downgrades,’ such as 8GB of RAM instead of 12GB, and the S21 has a polycarbonate (plastic) rear panel instead of glass.
Not every difference between the 2021 and 2020 Galaxy phones is bad, however. Those who want more storage on the S21 can opt for the 256GB version instead of the 128GB. Unfortunately, the S21+ only offers 128GB or 256GB options, and not 512GB like the S20+.
The S21 and S21+ should also perform better when it comes to battery life, in part thanks to the lower-res screen and in part thanks to the S21+ having a larger 4,800mAh cell (the S20+ had 4,500mAh while the S21 and S20 both have 4,000mAh).
And of course, all three S21 devices sport the new Snapdragon 888 processor, which should bring some significant performance uplift over last year’s devices.
Aside from the Snapdragon 888 processor, the S21 Ultra doesn’t differ much from the S20 Ultra. Perhaps the most significant change is the slightly smaller screen (6.8- versus 6.9-inch on the S20 Ultra), a new 256GB storage option between the 128GB and 512GB options. The S21 Ultra also drops the 48-megapixel telephoto camera in favour of two 10-megapixel ones. And the S21 Ultra offers the ability to run the 120Hz refresh at the higher WQHD+ resolution.
One other interesting note is that all three S21 devices are slightly heavier than their S20 counterparts.