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If battery life is better, the display sacrifice makes sense for the Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21 arrives in a trio of flavours, and it brings with it a slightly different focus from previous years. In particular, with the S21 and S21 Plus models.

Glance down the spec sheet for the two “cheaper” Samsung Galaxy S21-series phones and you’ll notice that they don’t follow the full blueprint of a typical Samsung flagship. In many ways, these feel like an update of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, not the older flagships.

On the base S21, glass is replaced by plastic on the back, expandable storage has been ditched, RAM is limited to 8GB and, perhaps most disappointing, the screen is an FHD+ rather than WQHD+ resolution. If you’re a pixel-counter who wants everything to be as sharp as possible then this will be a key issue that pushes you towards the far pricier Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Of course, as we mention time and again, resolution isn’t everything when it comes to assessing display quality. The panel here remains AMOLED, which in our experience is offers perfect inky blacks. The phones high levels of brightness and an adaptive 120Hz refresh that will ramp up or down depending on the task at hand are also key selling points we’re excited to test during our review.

The Galaxy S20 did have a 120Hz panel, but you couldn’t utilise this at the highest resolution. Plus, it was always stuck at 120Hz, even if you were watching a 30fps video where no benefits could be had. If anything it was a hinderance on some occasions, with the higher refresh rate eating up the phone’s battery way faster than I’d like.

I was a big fan of the Galaxy S20, however, the Exynos version in particular struggled to make it through a full day of heavy use. Even the Plus model wasn’t a true battery champion. My hope here is that by adding an adaptive refresh rate and removing the higher-res option, we’ll have a phone whose battery will last much longer.

There is one significant caveat here that doesn’t concern the screen resolution or even battery size. It’s the inclusion of the Exynos 2100 chipset in markets such as the UK. 

One of the main reasons the UK model of the Galaxy S20 suffered endurance issues is the Exynos 2100. This was made obvious by the far superior stamina of the Snapdragon 865-toting Galaxy S20 FE. The 5nm construction of the 2100 should make it far more efficient than the 7nm 990, but we won’t know this for sure until we get to really put the phone through its paces with real world testing.

Even if battery life is notably better, I still think it’s a valid criticism to bemoan the lack of the higher-resolution display, especially on the larger 6.7-inch Plus model. This has been a mainstay in the series for years, and is sure to find its way onto countless competing Android devices hitting the market throughout the year. 

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