The Exynos 9611 wasn’t smashing records in 2019, and it certainly isn’t doing much better in 2020, but to be fair, it holds its own while gaming on even the 4GB RAM model as long as you don’t play on high graphic settings. There’s also Samsung’s gaming mode which is awesome, it lets you block incoming notifications and calls, and even access a few functions like the dialer in a minimised screen, pretty nifty!
Speaking of nifty, the rear camera setup is a 48MP wide sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor and a 5MP depth sensor. I didn’t hate pictures on the M30s, but Samsung’s definitely done a much better job of image processing on the M21. I said the same about the M31—I feel like when it comes to budget phones, the M series is really pushing the envelope and delivering results I would expect from phones that cost more than twice as much as these.
If you’re looking for detail, the 48MP photo mode has plenty. If you’re looking for bokeh, the depth sensor’s got you covered. And if you’re looking for vast ultra-wide shots, that finally don’t look like they’ve been taken with a completely different phone, the M21 will deliver. Colours are great, details are rich and depth in close up shots is surprisingly good, without the need for a macro sensor. There’s even a Super Steady Mode for videos that’s great if you’re an amateur filmmaker on a tight budget.
Low light photography is the one place this phone is lacking, despite the dedicated Night mode. Pictures in semi-darkness have quite a bit of grain, despite strong image processing. I know that doesn’t sound great, but for me personally, that isn’t a deal-breaker, especially when I consider the price and how infrequently I take shots in the dark. Still, it’s always nice to have that ability in the arsenal, and that’s the one spot on an otherwise polished product.
The front camera is a 20MP sensor, and it’s portrait selfies are how you’d expect them to be—well processed but a bit iffy on the edge detection, a perennial problem with single sensors on the front that some brands are now remedying with dual hole-punches.