Samsung Galaxy M21 review: A worthy option among non-Chinese brands

Samsung Galaxy M21

South Korean electronics major Samsung introduced the Galaxy M-series last year to take on Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi, Realme, and Vivo. Since the smartphone technology space has been changing rather quickly – a one-size-fits-all does not work anymore, especially in the budget and midrange segments – so, learning from peers, Samsung released new models under its M-series in a quick succession.

While some of the newer models launched bring new technologies, others were simply rebranded versions of the older models. The recently launched Galaxy M21 seems to a part of the latter type – a rebranded version of the Galaxy M30s launched late last year.

A successor to the Galaxy M20, the Samsung Galaxy M21 has an Amoled screen, 48-megapixel-based multi-optic rear camera array, and a big-capacity battery with fast-charge support. The phone seems to have something in store for everyone, but how does it fare in real-life usage? Let’s find out:

Design

Like other M-series smartphones, the Galaxy M21 has a polycarbonate body that covers the entire back and the chassis. It does not look premium when compared to phones with a glass build, but its plastic body seems to be quite durable and sturdy. A gradient finish might have added some zing to the phone’s otherwise boring design. Moreover, the glossy nature of plastic makes the phone’s body susceptible to fingerprints. It gets smudged easily; not something you want if you are not particularly fond of back covers.

The phone’s overall design is strictly minimal with no flashy element, edges or curves. This might not be seen as a good thing in the segment it caters to, where design seems to be one of the important factors.

Display

The Galaxy M21 has a 6.4-inch fullHD+ Amoled screen, stretched in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The screen has a good brightness to remain legible in bright outdoors. It renders vivid colours and has satisfactory viewing angles. Thanks to an Amoled panel, the screen has deep black levels and the overall contrast is also good. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, which offers decent resistance to accidental scratches and smudges. The phone comes with Widevine L1 certification, which allows it to stream high-definition multimedia content available on over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, etc.

Camera

The Galaxy M21 boasts a triple-camera array on the back, featuring a 48-megapixel primary sensor of an f/2.0 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor of an f/2.2 aperture and a 5MP depth sensor for portrait shots. On the front, the phone has a U-shaped notch on the top side of the screen accommodating the phone’s 20MP selfie camera, which is of an f/2.2 aperture.

Technical stuff aside, the overall camera package is decent, if not class-leading. The primary 48MP sensor on the back is good for daylight photography. It takes good shots with a satisfactory amount of detail and dynamic range. The colour reproduction is good, but the photos turn out to be saturated and not natural. The ultra-wide sensor does its jobs to widen the field of view and capture more information in a single frame. However, it does not flatten the barrel effect, which is prominent and adds some softness on the border of the photos.

The Galaxy M21 has a dedicated night mode for low-light photography. However, its utility is restricted to primary sensor only. There is a portrait mode, named Live Focus, which works on both front and rear camera.

The front camera is good for selfies and group selfies. It works fine in day light but stutters in under-lit environments. The front camera doubles up as a face-recognition agent to unlock the phone; it works fine in bright environments but fails to do the job in under-lit areas.

With regard to videography, the Galaxy M21 supports up to 4K video recording using the back camera. The front camera is capable to do a fullHD. There is no 60FPS mode in any available format. Thankfully, there is a provision to use either the primary sensor or the ultra-wide sensor for video recording. But you cannot switch between the two cameras while recording videos.

Performance

The Galaxy M21 is powered by Exynos 9611 system-on-chip, paired with up to 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage. The phone ships with Samsung OneUI 2.0 operating system, which is based on Google Android 10.

For an entry-level midrange smartphone, the Galaxy M21 has a decent performance, if not class-leading. It handles everyday tasks with ease and feels smooth in normal operations. However, it shows some lags and inconsistencies when tested for processor- and graphic-intensive tasks, such as recording long videos, and playing games like PUBG and Asphalt 9: Legends.

The phone’s OneUI 2.0 (user interface) is sleek and accentuates the overall user experience. Its native night mode (dark theme) support goes well with the phone’s Amoled screen. It is swift and intuitive and works better in one hand than any other custom Android operating system. The sleek user interface is, however, marred by the amount of bloatware that comes pre-installed with it and hampers the overall user experience. Thankfully, there are no ads here, even from the pre-installed bloatware.

The device is powered by a 6,000 mAh battery, which is good enough to keep it going for two days or more. Though the phone supports fast charging (15W), it takes more than three hours to replenish the battery from zero to 100 per cent. The charging time is not the quickest, but the huge battery capacity compensates for it.

Verdict

Starting at Rs 13,199, the Galaxy M21 is one of the most affordable Samsung smartphones. It does not compromise on the precedent set by the company’s Galaxy M-series. True, it does not have the best design or build quality, but its bright and vivid screen is a delight to use and the camera is versatile, with good value-added features. Moreover, its performance is up to the mark and the phone’s OneUI 2.0 user interface is one of the best iterations of the custom Android OS in this segment.

The Galaxy M21 might face some difficulty taking on the likes of Xiaomi, Realme and Vivo smartphones in the same segment. But it is a good option if you are out in the market looking for a capable smartphone that is not Xiaomi or Realme or any other Chinese brand.



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