Saturday, June 15, 2024

Samsung Galaxy S21: Your complete buyer’s guide to the new S21 series


Samsung’s kicking off 2021 with a bang.


There are some things in the mobile tech space that are a given every single year, one of which is that we get a new Samsung Galaxy S release pretty early on. That’s no different for 2021, but rather than waiting until March or April like it usually does, Samsung’s launching its next big flagship right now.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 brings a mix of expected and drastic changes compared to last year’s S20 family, including things like spec upgrades, a refreshed design, and all-new camera tech. Whether you’re in the market for a price-conscious flagship or something that goes all-out, the S21 series has something for you.

No matter if you’re looking for pricing information, details on where you can buy the Galaxy S21, or anything else in between, here’s everything you need to know!

Killer flagship

Samsung Galaxy S21


From $800 at Samsung
From $700 at Amazon
From $700 at Best Buy

More phone, less money

The Galaxy S21 series has arrived, and for a lot of shoppers, the baseline S21 will be the go-to choice. It has a compact and user-friendly size, incredible performance with the Snapdragon 888, capable cameras, and a large battery. You get all of this for just $800, making it a seriously great deal.

Samsung Galaxy S21:

  • Price
  • Availability
  • Which should you buy?
  • Specs
  • Design
  • S Pen
  • Comparisons
  • Accessories

Samsung Galaxy S21 Price


When a new smartphone comes out we expect it to cost more than its predecessor. That’s just how things typically work, but in the case of the Galaxy S21, Samsung did the unthinkable — it made the phones cheaper than the Galaxy S20 models they’re replacing.

For some context, here are the retail prices for the S20 series:

  • Galaxy S20 — $999
  • Galaxy S20+ — $1199
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra — $1399

With that in mind, here’s how much you’ll pay for the Galaxy S21 lineup: $799 for the S21, $999 for the S21+, and $1199 for the S21 Ultra. That’s a price cut of $200 for every single phone, which is kind of unheard of as far as flagship releases go. A move like this would be praised for any year, but especially after the year we had with 2020 and people still dealing with tighter budgets than normal, this is greatly appreciated.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Availability


If you’re interested in buying a Galaxy S21 for yourself, the good news is that you can go out and buy all three models right now! Furthermore, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the best Galaxy S21 deals.

If you buy directly from Samsung’s website, trading in an eligible phone will get you up to $700 for an instant discount on your purchase. You can also get up to $100 in instant credits for another Samsung purchase, along with a free Galaxy SmartTag and four free months of YouTube Premium.

T-Mobile has one of the most appealing carrier deals, offering up to $800 in credits when trading in an eligible phone — effectively making the regular S21 free. What makes this a standout offer is that older and cheaper phones like the Galaxy S9 and Pixel 4a will still get you that $800 credit.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Which should you buy?


We’ve already mentioned that there are three distinct versions of the Galaxy S21 to choose from, but looking at the big picture for these phones, how do they compare to one another? Let’s break that all down real quick.

The regular Galaxy S21 is the phone to buy if you want the core S21 experience while spending as little as possible. It has the same Snapdragon 888 processor found in the other two models, there’s an AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and the camera setup should be quite promising. There is a plastic design compared to the glass build of the S21+ and S21 Ultra, however, and you won’t get any UWB functionality that’s found in those more expensive handsets. If none of that bothers you, the S21 is a seriously great deal at just $800. If you want a closer look at everything it has to offer, be sure to check out our Galaxy S21 review.

Then we have the middle child, the Galaxy S21+. It has a larger display and a bigger battery than the baseline S21, which are two notable perks if you plan on watching a lot of movies or playing a lot of games. The design is also a bit nicer thanks to the glass back, and if you care at all about UWB, that is present here. The camera system and processor are identical, though, so unless you need the larger display and battery, you could just buy the S21 for a nearly identical experience and save some cash while doing so.


And, of course, there’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This is the phone you buy if you want the very best that Samsung has to offer in 2021, and in doing so, you’re treated to one heck of a phone.

The heart of the S21 Ultra is the same Snapdragon 888 chipset, but in almost every other regard, it brings meaningful upgrades to the table. For starters, the display resolution is upped from Full HD+ to Quad HD+ and adds greater variability to the refresh rate (allowing it to scale from just 11Hz to 120Hz). The cameras are also completely different — the primary camera is a 108MP sensor and you get two telephoto ones for incredible zoom shots. Smaller changes include more RAM, Wi-Fi 6E instead of Wi-Fi 6, and a truly massive 5,000 mAh battery. Oh, and it’s compatible with the S Pen!

Given all of the upgrades the S21 Ultra brings to the table, you might be wondering what the point of the Galaxy S21+ is. In our Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21+ comparison, it becomes pretty clear which phone comes out on top. Between the higher-resolution display, vastly improved cameras, and S Pen support, the Ultra does a lot to justify its $200 premium over the S21+.

It’s not a perfect phone, but if you read through our full Galaxy S21 Ultra review, it becomes easy to see why it stands out as one of the best of the year so far.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Specs


Speaking of specs, here’s a full rundown of everything you can expect from all three S21 models. From the processor, display, cameras, and more, here’s what makes the phones tick.

Operating System Android 11 / One UI 3.0 Android 11 / One UI 3.0 Android 11 / One UI 3.0
Display 6.2-inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz refresh rate 6.7-inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz refresh rate 6.8-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz refresh rate
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Memory 8GB RAM 8GB RAM 12 or 16GB RAM
Storage 128 or 256GB 128 or 256GB 128, 256, or 512GB
Expandable Storage
Rear Camera 1 12MP primary 12MP primary 108MP primary
Rear Camera 2 12MP ultra-wide 12MP ultra-wide 12MP ultra-wide
Rear Camera 3 64MP telephoto 64MP telephoto 10MP telephoto (3x)
Rear Camera 4 10MP telephoto (10x)
Front Camera 10MP 10MP 40MP
Security Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor Ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6 5G (sub-6 and mmWave) Wi-Fi 6 5G (sub-6 and mmWave) UWB Wi-Fi 6E 5G (sub-6 and mmWave) UWB
Battery 4,000 mAh 4,800 mAh 5,000 mAh
Water Resistance IP68 IP68 IP68
Dimensions 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
Weight 172g 202g 228g

Samsung Galaxy S21 Design


As you’ve probably noticed by now, the Galaxy S21 looks quite a bit different from previous Galaxy releases. We still have large, bezel-less displays with a centered hole-punch cutout, but looking at the back, we’re treated to a brand new design we haven’t seen before.

The camera housing is now integrated with the frame of the phone, seamlessly flowing into it. It’s a pretty drastic change that you’ll either love or hate, and if you ask Samsung, it’s “the biggest step forward in design for the Galaxy S series ever.”


It doesn’t make much of an impact in day-to-day use, but this does allow for some pretty unique color combinations — specifically, giving the camera housing a different accent color compared to the rest of the phone.

Samsung has always had fun with its color choices, and for the Galaxy S21 series, that looks to be the case more than ever. If you find yourself unsure of what color Galaxy S21 you should buy, I’d personally recommend going with Phantom Violet (it looks so freaking good!).

Samsung Galaxy S21 S Pen


The first Galaxy Note was an important device for a couple of reasons. Not only did it usher in a new era of large smartphones for the entire industry, but it also introduced us to the S Pen. The S Pen has been a staple of every Galaxy Note since then, and up until now, it’s been a feature kept exclusive to the Note series.

Samsung’s shaking things up with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, allowing the phone to work with past S Pens and selling a new one alongside it as a $40 accessory. You can use it to draw, take notes, annotate documents, and anything else you’d typically use the S Pen for.

It’s a big move for Samsung to allow S Pen support on a Galaxy S device, and paired with rumors that the Galaxy Note family could be done for this year, it’s likely just the beginning of even more devices working with the S Pen later in 2021 and beyond.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Comparisons


The Galaxy S21 lineup is damn impressive in a bubble, but as you start stacking them up side-by-side, how do they hold up? Here’s what we’ve learned from our comparisons so far.

In the case of the Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra, the winner is clear as day. Last year’s S20 Ultra still has a lot to offer here in 2021, but between the improved cameras, more powerful display, and much nicer design, the S21 Ultra is the better overall smartphone. Not to mention, the S20 Ultra is more expensive than the S21 Ultra despite being a year older.

Another fun pairing comes with the Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max. These are the two best phones offered by Samsung and Apple, respectively, and that means you can’t go wrong no matter which one you purchase. The S21 Ultra is a phenomenal choice for folks that prefer Android, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best phone to buy if you’d rather use iOS, and that’s basically what the comparison boils down to.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Accessories


We’ve said it a few times before and we’ll say it again: a good phone isn’t complete without the proper accessories. Especially in the case of the Galaxy S21 lineup where you’re making a hefty investment in your new phone, it’s in your best interest to keep it protected as best as you can.

The regular S21 may be made out of a durable plastic, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the best Galaxy S21 cases. From adding more grip to giving the phone a bit of style, it’s an essential accessory you simply can’t ignore. Thanks to the glass backs of the other two models, shopping for the best Galaxy S21+ cases and best Galaxy S21 Ultra cases shouldn’t be something we have to tell you to do twice.

No matter which variant of the S21 you get, it’s also worth taking a dive into the best Galaxy S21 accessories overall. From portable battery packs, smartwatches, and more, there’s a lot out there to further elevate your experience with Samsung’s latest and greatest.

And, since the Galaxy S21 doesn’t come with a charger in the box, you’ll want to check out the best Galaxy S21 chargers as well. There are plenty of options to choose from, all of which deliver the maximum 25W charge speeds the S21 is capable of.

Killer flagship

Samsung Galaxy S21


From $800 at Samsung
From $700 at Amazon
From $700 at Best Buy

More phone, less money

The Galaxy S21 series has arrived, and for a lot of shoppers, the baseline S21 will be the go-to choice. It has a compact and user-friendly size, incredible performance with the Snapdragon 888, capable cameras, and a large battery. You get all of this for just $800, making it a seriously great deal.

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