Samsung Galaxy A21s Review: A Good-Looking Disappointment

Samsung Galaxy A21s Review
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Samsung launches a lot of smartphones every year, but in doing so, they do bring some overpriced and underpowering phones. The Galaxy M11 we reviewed a while ago was one such example, and since then I have been using the Galaxy A21s alongside my favorite budget phone at the moment, the Galaxy M21. The A21s is slightly costlier than the M21 for the same memory configuration, so which one should you pick? Let’s find out in this review of the Samsung Galaxy A21s.

Samsung Galaxy A21s Specifications:

  • Body: 6.44 x 2.96 x 0.35 inches; 192 gm
  • Display: 6.5-inches PLS TFT LCD panel; 270PPI
  • Resolution: HD+ (1600 x 720 pixels); 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Exynos 850; 8nm Mobile Platform
  • CPU: Octa-core (4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • GPU: Mali-G52
  • RAM: 3/4/6GB
  • Storage: 32/64GB eMMC 5.1 (expandable via a Micro SD card)
  • Software & UI: One UI 2.0 (Core) on top of Android 10
  • Rear Camera: Quad-camera;
    – 48MP, f/2.0 primary shooter
    – 8MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide lens
    – 2MP, f/2.4 macro lens
    – 2MP, f/2.4 depth sensor
    – LED flash
  • Front Camera: 13MP, f/2.2 lens
  • Security: Fingerprint Scanner (Rear-mounted)
  • Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/AGPS/GLONASS/GALILEO/BDS, USB Type-C
  • Battery: 5000mAh with 15W fast charging
  • Colors: Black, White, Blue, Red
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 24,999 (4/64GB)

Samsung Galaxy A21s Review:

Design

  • A stunning and mesmerizing reflective rear panel
  • Slightly hefty and an all-plastic build

So, the first thing to like about the Galaxy A21s is its design.

Take a look at this thing, absolutely stunning. This glossy and reflective real panel could mesmerize you for days, I know it did for me so. Thanks to its curved body, the phone has an excellent grip as well with a little bit of heft too, though I would’ve preferred something lighter. Surprisingly, the A21s is slightly heavier than the Galaxy M21 which comes with a 20% larger battery.

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As expected, Samsung has gone with an all-out plastic build and the glossy finish definitely aids in some smudges and fingerprints sticking to the phone. Yet, I am happy to report that it’s not what you call a “fingerprint magnet”. Therefore, you can retain the gorgeous look for long without breaking any sweat.

Ergonomic button placement

Both the power & volume rockers reside on the right while a SIM tray sits on the left side of the phone. The buttons click just fine and are positioned well enough to be at reach. The top portion of A21s remains mostly barren except for the microphone, while a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Type-C data/charging port, and a speaker grille can be found at the bottom.

Once again getting to the back of the phone, it borrows the L-shaped camera module from other phones like the Galaxy M31 with a slight but inconsiderable bump. Adjacent to the cameras is a traditional fingerprint sensor we’ve typically seen in many budget-oriented and mid-range Samsung smartphones. Anyway, A21s has an outstanding design for an affordable phone even though the company could’ve worked the weight a bit. Therefore, this is one of the only two things that I absolutely am fond of about this phone.

Display

  • 6.5-inches PLS TFT LCD panel with HD+ resolution
  • Mediocre sharpness & color reproduction, plus screen flickering issue

Samsung Galaxy A21s - Display [1]

Moving on, the display is usually where Samsung phones shine the brightest but sadly it’s not the case here. It’s just bad, so bad. Even the trendier punch-hole cutout for the front-facing camera isn’t able to save grace for the phone’s display quality. I mean, have a peek for yourself. This undersaturated panel has a terrible color reproduction and you could instantly recognize the mediocrity.

Getting to the nitty-gritty details, the Galaxy A21s has a 6.5” Infinity-O PLS TFT LCD panel with an HD+ resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio. So yeah, the viewing experience on this phone wasn’t great at all. The sharpness isn’t quite there and I’ve already talked about the inferior colors.

Punch-hole cutout can’t save the averageness

The punch hole on the left corner does add to the modern-ness of the phone and all, but it is still a victim to mild screen bleed around the outline of the cutout. Brightness is okay for indoors although the A21s will make you work in terms of visibility when you’re directly under the sun.

Adding further insult to the injury is how the display flickers. What?! That, in no way, should be happening on a 2020 phone. When sliding down the brightness of the phone to the minimum or turning on the “Medium Power Saving” mode, I could clearly notice how the Samsung Galaxy A21s fails to close-in on the set level of brightness during my review. This is most noticeable when you’ve turned off dark mode and are using light-themed applications like Facebook, or just browsing through the settings.

Samsung Galaxy A21s - Dark Mode

Talking about the dark mode, I must admit it is well implemented even though it lacks the Always-on Display feature found on AMOLED-boasting Samsung mid-rangers like the Galaxy M21. All in all, A21s has a less-than-average display with forgettable colors, average sharpness, and a daunting screen-flicker issue. The standard Galaxy A20 of last year had a stunning AMOLED panel and I cannot fathom why the company is going with a menial one on its successors.

Cameras

  • Quad-cameras at the back
  • (48MP primary, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth sensor)
  • 13MP front-facing camera inside a punch-hole cutout

Camera-wise, the Galaxy A21s has a quad-lens system at the back with a 48MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultrawide lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor.

Macro Images

As usual, the 2MP macro lens is pretty much useless as shots come out void of any detail.

And you’ll need to put in a lot of work for just a mediocre shot.

Normal Images

The other three lenses are actually very good. But comparing the primary 48MP sensor with the M21, it’s almost identical except for the minute difference in color tone.

Both these phones are capable of capturing good daylight images, with good colors, contrast, and dynamic range. Likewise, they are also on par when it comes to details and sharpness.

Wideangle Images

Wide-angle photos share a similar story. That is, it’s identical to that of the M21 images. In day times, you will get good colors, sufficient dynamic range, and wide field of view.

Overall, the A21s wide-angle images are better than your typical budget phones like Realme 6i or the Redmi Note 9.

Portrait Images

In terms of portraits too, its good for the price with good subject focus, decent bokeh, and background colors.

It is almost identical to that of the M21’s portrait as you can see in this image here.

Selfie Images

Selfie-wise, you get a 13MP sensor whose images look almost as good as the selfies from the 20MP sensor of the Galaxy M21. There is just a slight difference in skin color, otherwise, images from both the devices look almost identical.

The portrait selfies share the same fate where both have good colors but average edge detection.

Nighttime Images

Nighttime images on the A21s wildly vary between the normal and wide-angle mode, with the latter resulting in much warmer shots. Details aren’t quite there either. And the most disappointing part is, you don’t get night mode here.

Finally, videos are maxed out to FHD resolution at 30fps on both front and rear cameras of Galaxy A21s; both of which lack any sort of stabilization. Recordings from the back camera are good enough for regular usage as it has good color reproduction and a little wide field of view. On the contrary, selfie videos are riddled with overexposure and a terrible dynamic range.

But, overall, I’ve liked the cameras of the A21s, It’s almost identical to that of M21, and is better than say its competitors like the Redmi Note 9 or the Realme 6i.

Performance & Memory

  • Octa-core Exynos 850 SoC (8nm)
  • Either 3, 4, or 6GB of RAM with up to 64GB of internal storage

The performance on this phone isn’t one for the books either. Well, Samsung has been consistently notorious regarding indecent chipset selection but this one takes the cake for the most out-of-place SoC put on a midrange phone. And yeah, it’s a homegrown Exynos silicon from the company. To be fair, it is manufactured under a much efficient 8nm process node and therefore is very energy-friendly.

Samsung Galaxy A21s - Display [2]

This new Exynos 850 has octa-core Cortex-A55 CPU, all clocked at 2.0GHz. We’re already familiar with this Arm design and know that it’s a power-efficient CPU. Because of this, the performance of A21s is below an acceptable level. In terms of memory, you can choose between 3, 4, or 6GB of RAM with up to 64GB of internal storage depending on the market. It runs on OneUI Core instead of the standard OneUI and thus is void of certain features like a dedicated night mode on the camera, Secure Folder, etc.

But it didn’t really bother me as the core experience was pretty much what I’ve come to look for from OneUI. My review unit has a 4/64GB configuration and my experience with the phone was as abysmal as you can imagine. I’m sure memory management could get a little better in higher RAM variants but I can guarantee that paying for more memory won’t result in a faster, swifter workflow on the A21s.

Lightweight apps work fine though

Yet, the Exynos 850 can handle lightweight apps and multitasking between them pretty well. But if they’re joined by some other heavy apps or games, then the equation becomes entirely different. Memory management isn’t great (a reminder once again that the unit I’m using has 4GB RAM) and the phone misbehaves when it goes to sleep with RAM-intensive applications still in the memory and you try to wake it up.

Gaming

Likewise, don’t expect any outlandishly extravagant gaming experience on the A21s either. Popular titles like PUBG Mobile, PUBG Lite, and Call of Duty: Mobile is playable but there is a catch with each of them. PUBGm was almost entirely unplayable with noticeable lag & stutter under “Smooth” graphics and “Low” frame rate, even under “Deathmatch” mode.

Samsung Galaxy A21s - Gaming

So, I tried out its lite version instead which ran comparatively well under “Smooth” graphics and “Medium” frame rate. Shockingly, I witnessed smooth gameplay in CoD under “Medium” graphics and “High” frame rate. Besides these, other undemanding games like Injustice 2, Mobile Legends are well within the playable boundary too.

Battery

  • 5000mAh battery with 15W fast charging
  • Easily a two-day phone with light to medium usage

Do you remember how I said that the design of the Galaxy A21s is one of the only two things I like about the phone? Well, the other thing is the battery. It has a big 5000mAh cell albeit some “M” series phones from Samsung come with a larger 6000mAh battery. Nevertheless, I can honestly say it has a better endurance than those phones which is mainly thanks to the following factors:

1 An energy-efficient 8nm Exynos 850 chipset
2 A less battery-hungry PLS TFT display
3 An HD+ (720p) resolution

The phone easily lasted me two days which consisted of hours of web browsing, YouTube binging, and a little bit of gaming now and then. What’s more impressive is how the phone is prone to excessive heating even after a prolonged session of gaming. So, good job on the battery front, Samsung! Still, charging it is a pain as I clocked in 2 hours and 26 minutes to fully charge the phone from nil to full.

Samsung Galaxy A21s - Charging

In the middle of praising the phone for its excellent battery, I must share a rather unfortunate incident. My review unit of the A21s suddenly went to the boot menu and got stuck there once when it was running low on battery. I remember it had about 14% charge left and just as I was about to plug-in the cable, all I could see was the Samsung logo on the startup screen. Thus, I had to force restart the device by long-pressing the power and volume-down button at once. However, this didn’t reoccur next time the phone was running low on battery.

Others

What else? Yes, let’s discuss the fingerprint sensor. The registration process was a little weird, to begin with. Usually, a phone would prompt you to scan the front of the finger, then its edges separately to get a good read of the entire finger. But on this phone, all you need to do is scan the finger in the same position (if you feel like it) and that’s about it.

As a result, the phone would only recognize my fingerprint, like 3 out of 5 times. A21s also features face-unlock which isn’t the fastest and only works with sufficient ambient light around you.

Samsung Galaxy A21s - Dolby Audio

The audio output from the single bottom-firing speaker is okay, but only at low to medium volume. Cranking up the loudness will result in lossy and distorted audio. It supports Dolby Atmos too but that only works on wired earphones or Bluetooth headsets. Here, the wired output is considerably better than the speakers.

Final Words

In conclusion, the Samsung Galaxy A21s is an honestly worse-than-average smartphone for the price as I discovered during my review. Featuring an HD+ TFT panel, a processor with only power-efficient CPU cores, etc. speak volumes. The only things in its favor are the design, and battery endurance.

But ultimately, these are like putting lipstick on a pig. The end-user experience is just not worth the price and we strongly recommend you go for the Galaxy M21 instead, which has an AMOLED display, powerful Exynos 9611 SoC, and better cameras at a more or less the same price.

  • Watch our video review of the Samsung Galaxy A21s!

Samsung Galaxy A21s Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent design with a fashionable reflective rear panel
  • Great battery endurance (a proper two-day phone)
  • Decent camera performance

Cons:

  • Terrible value for money
  • Forgettable display with unsaturated colors & minimal sharpness
  • Exynos 850 is power-efficient but not that powerful
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
8.5
Display
6.5
Performance
6.5
Back Camera
7.5
Front Camera
7.5
Software & UI
8
Battery
9
Value for Money
6