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Samsung M21 Review: the #Monster is back

May 28, 2020 19:38 IST

It’s been over 9 months since Samsung introduced the Galaxy M30s. With a 6,000 mAh battery, a Samsung OLED panel and a triple camera setup at around ₹15k, it was an instant hit. Now, it seems Samsung wants to recreate the same magic with the new Samsung Galaxy M21. In fact, there’s quite a lot of similarities between the M30s and this new M21. I think the only thing I could tell that was different between the two is the front camera, colour options and Android 10 on the M21--that’s about it. Everything else seems to be exactly the same. Display? Same 6.4” super AMOLED FHD+ screen with Widevine L1 certification and beautiful colours, far better than what the competition has to offer at this price point. Chipset? Again, the same Exynos 9611 that’s feeling a tad underpowered in 2020, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Rear cameras? Exactly the same sensors and arrangement—48MP triple camera setup with a wide lens, ultra wide lens and depth sensor. The batteries on both are also the same 6,000 mAh giants which are painfully slow to charge with the bundled 15W adapters, the weight is the same 188g and even the structure of the phones are identical, save for the far nicer colour option on the M30s. All this begs the simple question—why? Well, let’s go through how my experience with the M21 was, and see if it helps get us to an answer. The M21 is housed in a plastic body, and in this glossy black variant, it attracts a lot of scratches, so if you wanna take care of it, you’d best buy a case for it. There’s a physical fingerprint sensor on the back, which is just as quick as always, but with more smartphone makers opting for a side-mounted scanner, it would’ve been nice to see one here too. Like I said, the display is gorgeous, great colours and good resolution. It’s perfect for binge-watching Netflix and let’s be real—that’s all anyone is doing these days with the lockdown. On that depressing note, let’s move on to the chipset—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. Now before I forget, there’s a USB Type-C port, a single bottom firing speaker and a 3.5mm headphone jack, so no surprises there. The main upgrade however, over the M30s is with Android 10, and Samsung’s One UI 2.0. It’s easily one of my favourite skins out there, alongside Oxygen OS on the OnePlus series. It’s got clean gesture navigation, an easily-accessible dark mode that looks great with the OLED screen, and the added promise that it’ll last one year longer than the M30s when it comes to software updates. That 4GB RAM I mentioned keeps the experience surprisingly smooth, although you may get better results from the 6GB RAM model, including better multitasking and gaming. So let’s review—what’s the point of the M21, when you consider the extremely similar M30s, and even the new M31, which is more or less the same as this phone, except for the camera hardware? I think it’s just Samsung flexing—showing off how much more muscle they’ve got in the market compared to their competition. The Galaxy M21 carries on the legacy of the M series, with much better camera quality and Android 10 being brought to the table, at a starting price of ₹13,199. The 6GB RAM 128GB model will cost you a bit more at ₹15,499, but it’s still a solid deal for a phone that offers a beautiful screen, a great big swinging battery life, and strong camera performance—the perfect recipe for a good daily driver.

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