Samsung continues to add new models to its Galaxy M-series of smartphones that made its debut at the beginning of 2019, as a competitor to Chinese brands Xiaomi and Realme. One of the latest additions is the Galaxy M21, a successor to the M20 that comes at a starting price point of Rs 14,499. We took it for a quick spin to see if the phone is worthy of its price and how it fares against the competition.
Samsung has clearly saved on costs when it comes to design and build. It looks a lot like the Galaxy M30s, and has a plastic construction all around including the frame. The glossy finish at the back attracts a lot of fingerprints and smudges. On top of that, the back doesn’t have any protective coating which means you are bound to get scratches in just a few days of usage, unless you use a case. Speaking of which, there is no protective case in the box, something that a lot of manufacturers are offering in this price range.
The handset has a dated design with a waterdrop style notch above the display and a fairly large bezel at the bottom. The one thing that is good though, is the fact that it doesn’t feel very heavy in the hand, despite housing a 6,000mAh battery. Additionally, I found the handset to be quite handy and easy to use with one hand for most tasks.
The handset comes with the standard USB-C port at the bottom, along with the speaker and 3.5mm headphone jack, a SIM and microSD card tray on the left and the volume and power buttons on the right. Samsung is offering the Galaxy M21 in two colour 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 brightness of 420 nits and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. This is probably one of the key selling points of there are hardly any phones on the market with an AMOLED panel at this price.
The display is punchy and even at 50-percent brightness, I was quite satisfied with the performance of the panel. You get good viewing angles too and it seems to get bright enough so you can use it outdoors under the sunlight. You get some basic display settings on the phone including a Vivid colour profile, which is probably what most people are going to use.
I mentioned how the Galaxy M21 feels like the Galaxy M30s and the story continues when it comes to the innards. Samsung is using the Exynos 9611 chipset, which is the same chipset powering the Galaxy M31 and the Galaxy M30s. The processor comes with 8-cores with four ARM Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.3GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7GHz while the graphics are handled by the Mali-G72 chip. Essentially you can get the phone in two memory and storage options – 4GB of RAM + 64GB of storage and 6GB of RAM + 128GB of storage. The handset runs on Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI 2.0.
The handset does come with bloatware including apps like Amazon Shopping, Netflix, Prime Video, Helo, Snapchat and Dailyhunt. The good thing is that almost all of these can be uninstalled. The UI is pretty simple to use and is similar to most Samsung devices we’ve seen under Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 price range.
Now coming to the performance, we were sent the 4GB variant to test and it felt snappy for the most part. Apps and games load fast, but it isn’t consistent. For instance, the camera app takes a second or two to actually fire up. Compared to devices like the Redmi Note 9 Pro or the Realme 6 Pro, the performance is not entirely at par, but certainly good for the price you pay. Just to actually compare, I ran a few benchmark tests as well and found that the Galaxy M21 does fall 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 features a 20-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 aperture lens. The camera app is fairly simple to use and offers various modes including Live Focus, Pro, Night, Panorama, Food, Super Slow-Mo and more.
By default, the camera shoots 12-megapixel shots with 48-megapixel option hidden under the photo aspect ratio setting on the left menu. I felt that the overall performance in daylight conditions was good but not entirely impressive. Certain photos lacked sharpness, while the scene optimiser didn’t seem to be very accurate all the time. What I did like about the camera is that it offers a nice natural looking 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 primary camera with visibly lower details and sharpness. Photos taken indoors and in low light also seemed to lose out on details. The camera can shoot 4K video at 30fps, but there is a 10-minute limit and you obviously don’t get any stabilisation. There is an ultra-stable mode which is available only at 1080p resolution.
Now the 6000mAh battery unit already implies that the phone is going to have a solid backup. The phone lasted two days with regular usage which is great. Heavy usage can affect your mileage but I always ended up have a decent amount of charge left 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 percent.
The Galaxy M21 is a solid offering from Samsung. However, it mostly feels like a rebranded M30s since it shares exactly the same set of specifications. The smartphone is recommended if your priorities include a big battery and a good punchy display. The camera performance is not as impressive, while the overall performance of the phone is good for your everydays tasks. You could look out for the Redmi Note 9 series from Xiaomi as well as devices from its sister brand Poco. There is also the Realme 6 series that offers really good value.
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