Samsung has clearly saved on design and construction costs. It looks a lot like the Galaxy M30 and has plastic construction all around, including the frame. The glossy finish on the back attracts a lot of fingerprints and smudges. On top of that, the back doesn’t have a protective coating, which means you might get scratches within days of use, unless you’re using a case. Speaking of which, there is no protective case in the box, which many manufacturers offer in this price range.
The handset has a dated design with a teardrop style notch above the screen and a fairly large bezel at the bottom. The only thing that’s good though, is the fact that it doesn’t feel very heavy in the hand, despite housing a 6000mAh battery. Additionally, I found the handset to be very convenient and easy to use with one hand for most tasks.
The handset comes with the standard USB-C port on the bottom, with the speakerphone and 3.5mm headphone jack, a SIM and microSD card tray on the left, and the volume and power buttons on the right. Samsung offers the Galaxy M21 in two color options: blue and black.
The handset rocks a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with Full HD + 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution. It also comes with a claimed 420 nits brightness and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. This is probably one of the biggest selling points as there are hardly any phones on the market with an AMOLED panel at this price point. .
The screen is punchy and even at 50% brightness I was quite happy with the performance of the panel. You also get good viewing angles and it appears to be bright enough that you can use it outdoors in sunlight. You get some basic display settings on the phone, including a vivid color profile, which most people are likely to use.
I mentioned how the Galaxy M21 feels like the Galaxy M30 and the story goes on when it comes to the guts. Samsung uses the Exynos 9611 chipset, which is the same chipset powering the Galaxy M31 and Galaxy M30. The processor comes with 8 cores with four ARM Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7 GHz while the graphics are handled by the Mali-G72 chip. Basically, you can get the phone in two memory and storage options – 4GB RAM + 64GB storage and 6GB RAM + 128GB storage. The handset runs on Android 10 with One UI 2.0 from Samsung.
The handset comes bundled with bloatware software, including apps like Amazon Shopping, Netflix, Prime Video, Helo, Snapchat, and Dailyhunt. The good thing is that almost all of them can be uninstalled. The user interface is quite simple to use and is similar to most of the Samsung devices we have seen in the Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 price range.
Performance wise, we were sent the 4GB variant to test and it felt crisp for the most part. Apps and games load quickly, but it’s not consistent. For example, the camera app takes a second or two to trigger. Compared to devices like the Redmi Note 9 Pro or Realme 6 Pro, the performance isn’t quite up to par, but certainly good for the price you pay. Just for comparison, I also ran a few benchmark tests and found the Galaxy M21 to lag behind the competition.
There is a triple camera on the Galaxy M21 which is again similar to the Galaxy M30s. The camera includes a 48-megapixel sensor with an f / 2.0 aperture lens, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with an f / 2.2 aperture and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. The front selfie camera includes a 20 megapixel camera with an f / 2.0 aperture lens. The camera app is quite simple to use and offers various modes including Live Focus, Pro, Night, Panorama, Food, Super Slow-Mo and more.
By default, the camera takes 12-megapixel photos with the 48-megapixel option hidden under the photo aspect ratio setting in the left menu. I felt the overall performance in daytime conditions was good but not entirely impressive. Some photos lacked sharpness, while the Scene Optimizer didn’t always seem very sharp. What I liked about the camera is that it offers a nice natural depth of field. Like most smartphones, the ultra wide angle camera comes with a lower resolution sensor and the quality is not as good as the main camera with noticeably lower detail and sharpness. Photos taken indoors and in low light conditions also seemed to lose detail. The camera can shoot 4K video at 30 fps, but there’s a 10 minute limit and you obviously don’t get any stabilization. There is an ultra-stable mode which is only available at 1080p resolution.
Now the 6000mAh battery unit already implies that the phone will have a solid backup. The phone lasted for two days with regular use which is great. Heavy use can affect your mileage, but I still had a decent amount of charge at the end of my day. Samsung also offers a 15W charger which takes almost two hours to fully charge the battery from 0 to 100%.
The Galaxy M21 is a solid offering from Samsung. However, it mostly looks like a renowned M30 as it shares the exact same set of specs. The smartphone is recommended if your priorities include a big battery and a good, punchy display. The performance of the camera is not as impressive while the overall performance of the phone is good for your daily tasks. You can search for Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 9 series as well as devices from its sister brand Poco. There is also the Realme 6 series which offers very good value for money.
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