Samsung's new S21 line-up unveiled

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At an online event, Samsung just launched its new mainstream flagship phone series, the S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra, with prices ranging from £770 to £1150. The deltas over last year's (IMHO) unimpressive S20 line-up aren't that huge, with the dodgy 'zoom' system on the S20/S21 range still in place, though I'd point to the S21 Ultra stepping things up with both a genuine 3x telephoto camera and a 10x periscope system, giving enough headroom for decent results from 1x through to 10x with fewer weak spots.

Here's the relevant part of the official Samsung launch event video, covering the S21 Ultra imaging:

And here's GSM Arena's summary of the basic S21 range:

With the Ultra having the clear technological superiority, the Galaxy S21 and S21+ offer to fill smaller pockets and smaller budgets instead. In fact, these two are €50 cheaper than their 2020 predecessors (if you look at the 5G models). The Contour-Cut camera and dual-tone paint jobs help these two stand out from the crowd. Their flat screens are similarly distinctive in an age where “premium” equates to “curved screen”.
These two phones are nearly twins in terms of hardware, but their size makes them easily to tell apart. And it’s exactly their size and what that entails that make them different. So, we’ll start with what the two models have in common.

Let’s get it out of the way – yes, both the S21 and S21+ have 1080p+ displays, a downgrade from the 1440p+ resolution of the S20 series. The new panels have an adaptive refresh rate, however, which adjusts depending on the content from 48Hz to 120Hz. Hiding behind the display is an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that 70% larger than last year. No, the camera isn’t under the display, you get a standard punch hole with the same 10MP resolution as before.

Which brings us to the rear cameras. The major upgrades here stem from the new chipsets rather than the units themselves. The chips can handle three streams simultaneously, meaning you see a live preview three cameras at the same time. The main camera uses a 12MP sensor with large 1.8µm pixels and Dual Pixel AF, same as last year. It sits behind an f/1.8 lens with OIS. Strangely, the 12MP ultrawide-angle (120°) camera has not gained autofocusing abilities as the Ultra did. The 64MP camera is back to serve double duty. In photo mode, it offers 3X lossless zoom (with autofocus and OIS) and up to 30x “Space Zoom”. In video mode, it can record in 8K resolution at the same 24fps as last year.

And finally, MKBHD has a first impressions video up already on the 'Phantom Black' S21 Ultra, so check that out too...

In terms of testing, I'm looking forward to seeing how zoom works from 1x to 3x, then from 3x to 10x - can the super fast chipset really fill in all the gaps? We'll see. I'm also looking forward to testing the new, larger ultrasonic fingerprint sensor - that in the S10 and S20 ranges is garbage (IMHO). So hopefully this will be faster and more reliable.