8 quirks to know about the Samsung Galaxy S21 before you preorder

It's not just the price that's been cut.

Credit: Samsung

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is easily its best flagship bargain in years, with the latest flagship Snapdragon processor, a powerful triple-camera array, and a premium look and feel. But if you’re thinking it’s just an updated version of the S20 or even a smaller version of the new Galaxy S21+, there are a few things you need to know before you plunk down $800 to preorder.

The screen resolution is Full HD+ 1080p

Galaxy S buyers are used to getting the very best screens around. The Galaxy S20 brought a 6.2-inch Quad HD+ 3200x1440 Infinity-O Edge display with a pixel density of 563ppi and a 120Hz refresh rate. While the size is the same, you’re not getting all that with the new Galaxy S21. Rather, you’re getting a flat Full HD+ 2400x1080 Infinity-O display with a 421ppi pixel density and an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. That’s still an excellent display, of course, but it’s definitely a step down from what Galaxy S buyers are accustomed to getting.

The back is made of plastic

Ever since the Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S phones have been made entirely out of glass, and if you’re buying a Galaxy S21+ or S21 Ultra, that’s what you’re getting. But with the S21, you’re getting plastic—er, make that a “specially reinforced polycarbonate material.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing—plastic is less prone to shattering when dropped—but keep in mind that the S21 is just a little less premium this year.

galaxy s21 pink Samsung

The Galaxy S21 has a plastic back that only looks like glass.

There’s no Ultra Wide Band chip

After first bringing it to the Note 20 Ultra for quick file sharing, Samsung is going all in on ultra wide band. Alongside the Galaxy S21, Samsung launch a new line of SmartTags that work with the UWB chip to precisely locate lost objects. But if you get the S21, you won’t be able to take advantage of it—only the S21+ or S21 Ultra have the UWB chip.

It has less RAM than its predecessor

When Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 line, it was a performance beast, with a whopping 12GB of RAM standard across all three phones. Granted you might not have needed all that memory, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from Samsung phones it’s that they tend to get bogged down over time, so the extra RAM will definitely help keep things running smoothly. But on the Galaxy S21, you’re only getting 8GB with no option for 12GB.

galaxy s21 back Samsung

The Galaxy S21 is plenty fast, but not quite as fast as its siblings.

It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6E

It might seem like only yesterday when Wi-Fi 6 arrived, but the next generation is already here. Wi-Fi 6E offers faster speeds and higher capacity to reduce latency and bottlenecks, and the Galaxy S21 phones are among the first to feature what is soon to be ubiquitous. But like UWB, it’s only available on the S21 Ultra. The S21 sticks to basic Wi-Fi 6.

It doesn’t have a microSD storage slot

Samsung Galaxy S users have never really had to worry about how much storage is inside their phone thanks to the addition of a microSD memory card slot in the SIM tray. It’s been a staple of the Galaxy S since the first phone landed in 2010, but the Galaxy S21 doesn’t have one. So if you’re buying one, you might want to upgrade to the 256GB model.

galaxy s21 colors Samsung

The S21 has 128GB or 256GB of storage and that’s it.

It’s kind of heavy

The Galaxy S21 is the same size as the S20 it replaces and dumps the glass back for a plastic one, so you’d expect it to be as light as the Pixel 4a. That’s not the case. The Galaxy S21 weighs in at 171 grams, which is heavier than the S20 (163 grams), iPhone 12 (164 grams), and Pixel 5 (151 grams). We’re not sure where the extra weight is coming from.

It doesn’t support the S Pen

The Samsung S Pen has always been the thing that separates the Galaxy Note from the Galaxy S, so it’s a big deal that the Galaxy S21 lineup supports Samsung’s stylus, even if it’s just for drawing and writing. But don’t expect to break out your S Pen on the vanilla Galaxy S21. Samsung has limited stylus support to the S21 Ultra, so you’ll be tapping away with your finger like usual.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CES 2021

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Michael Simon

Michael Simon

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?