Samsung’s new flagship phone the Galaxy S21 5G is here. As is the case with all new phones, people wonder if it’s worth upgrading from 2020’s Galaxy S20 5G, to the new S21 5G. This article will pitch the Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Samsung Galaxy S21 to see if the new device is worth the upgrade, or not..

For this article we will be looking at the standard flagship models, the S20 from last year and the S21. There have been questions as to whether or not the S21 is actually an upgrade on the S20. There seems to be a few areas where the specs of the S21 are actually a downgrade on the S20, so understanding the differences between the two phones is definitely a beneficial application. 

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Samsung S20 vs Samsung S21: Display

One of the key differences between these two phones is the display. They both have a dynamic AMOLED 2x 120hz HDR10+ display; however, the S21s screen looks like a downgrade from its predecessor.

Samsung has opted for a Full HD+ screen with a 1080 x 2400-pixel resolution on the S21, compared to the S20s QHD+ 1440 x 3200-pixel resolution. This results in the S21 having a 421 pixels-per-inch density, which is a lot lower than the S20s 563 pixels-per-inch density.

SPECS:

Samsung Galaxy S21 display:

  • Dynamic Amoled 2X Display
  • 120hz Refresh Rate
  • HDR10+ Dynamic Range
  • 1080 x 2400-pixel resolution at 421 PPI
  • 1300 nits max brightness
  • Flat Screen

Samsung Galaxy S20 display:

  • Dynamic Amoled 2X Display
  • 120hz Refresh Rate
  • HDR10+ Dynamic Range
  • 1440 x 3200-pixel resolution at 563 PPI
  • 1200 nits max brightness
  • Curved Screen
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Verdict on S20 vs S21 displays:

Looking at the display specs, it seems that the S20 slightly trumps the S21. It has a higher resolution and has over 100 more pixels per inch. The only area where the S21 is showing a better spec is it is a brighter screen at 1300 nits as opposed to the 1200 nits of the S20. 

This lower resolution screen may be easier on battery usage and for some, that could be a major advantage. However, the battery saved will only be a couple of extra hours over the S20 and since when has downgrading a spec to preserve battery life been a desirable thing? I’m not convinced. 

Samsung S20 vs S21: Size

There isn’t much of a difference between the sizes of the S20 and the S21. The S21 is slightly bigger and slightly heavier than its predecessor.

Samsung S21 dimensions:

  • Height – 151.7mm (5.97 Inches)
  • Width – 71.2mm (2.80 inches)
  • Depth – 7.9mm (0.31 inches)
  • Weight – 171g

Samsung S20 dimensions:

  • Height – 151.7mm (5.97 Inches)
  • Width – 69.1mm (2.72 inches)
  • Depth – 7.9mm (0.31 inches)
  • Weight – 163g

The Samsung S21 has a 94.1cm² flat-screen giving it an 87.2% screen to body ratio. The S20 has a 93.8cm² curved screen giving it an 89.5% screen to body ratio.

Verdict on S20 vs S21 size:

The size is more of a personal preference. The differences here aren’t enough to make a significant impact on the reason for preferring one over the other. The S21 is only slightly bigger and slightly heavier, and I don’t think that an average person is going to notice the difference. 

Where the difference in size may be significant is in the shape of the screen. Again, this is a personal preference but the S21 has gone for a flat screen surface as opposed to the curved screen of the S20. For some people the flat screen suits them and for others they like the curved screen. This is something for the buyer to decide what they prefer and is definitely something to consider

Samsung S20 vs S21: Performance and Battery

The S21 has the Exynos 2100 processor, an upgrade on the S20s Exynos 990.

Samsung claims that this chipset upgrade will generate a 25% boost in overall performance due to the new Kyro 680 CPU. And the new Adreno 660 GPU should render graphics 35% faster than the S20. These boosts are to do with the image processing that occurs with the Exynos 2100. This 5nm chip is capable of engineering a better image than last year’s chip.

The S21 and the S20 have the same 4000 mAh battery. It would be wise to note that since the S21 has a lower resolution screen and a more efficient chipset, you could look at getting a couple more hours of battery life than the S20.

Both phones support Qi wireless charging at 15w and fast charging at 25w. Be warned though, that the S21 will not come with a charger in the box like the S20 did.

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Verdict on S20 vs S21 Performance and Battery:

The S21s upgraded Exynos 2100 processor is definitely significant. A 25% boost in overall performance and 35% better graphics rendering are massive enhancements and should not be taken lightly. Paired with the fact that the S21 should last longer on the same 4000 mAh battery, due to the lower resolution display, the S21 could be noticeably faster than the S20 and for longer. With phones, faster is nearly always better.

Samsung S20 vs S21: Camera

The S21 has the same camera specs as the S20 however some features have slight improvements on the old model. The 5nm chip inside the S21 is capable of engineering a better image than last year’s chip, which potentially could improve the image quality of photos.

S21 Camera specs:

  • 12MP main
  • 64MP zoom
  • 12MP ultra-wide
  • Brighter night mode
  • Zoom lock
  • 8K video recording
  • 10MP selfie

S20 Camera specs:

  • 12MP main
  • 64MP zoom
  • 12MP ultra-wide
  • 8K video recording
  • 10MP selfie

Verdict on S20 vs S21 Camera:

I think that the S21 having the same cameras as the S20, just with a few minor improvements for night photos and zoom lock, is a missed opportunity by Samsung. 

The Exynos 2100 processor in the S21 should be able to process a better image with these however, better camera sepcs would undeniably process a better image. 

Samsung missed an opportunity here to really make the S21 stand out from its predecessor. The camera in phones is generally the main attraction for a buyer, and in this instance I don’t think Samsung has generated much attraction at all 

Samsung S20 vs S21: Design

The S20 and the S21 come in very similar colours, Samsung has simply swapped Cosmic for Phantom as their catchy colour title.

S21 Colour options:

  • Phantom Grey
  • Phantom Violet
  • Phantom Pink
  • Phantom White

S20 Colour options:

  • Cosmic Grey
  • Cloud Blue
  • Cloud Pink
  • Cloud White
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There is also a difference in the materials used for the phones. The S21 has introduced a plastic or “glasstic” back. This is different from the S20s glass back. There is no denying that plastic is more durable than glass, however glass is viewed as a more desirable material in phones, it just looks nicer and feels nicer. 

Both phones have gorilla glass on their screens to prevent damage. The S21 has been fitted with the newer and theoretically stronger Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which if claims are true, would be an upgrade on the S20s Corning Gorilla Glass 6 in terms of protection. 

The S21 continued the trend of the S20 in not having a headphone. 

The S21 does not have a micro SD slot, whereas the S20 does. Samsung have been quoted as saying that they no longer think that it’s necessary. To counter this Samsung is offering larger base storage options at 256GB on the S21 when compared to the S20. However, this is a lot less space than the potential 1TB of added storage you could get with an external micro SD card.

Verdict on S20 vs S21 Design:

The designs for the phones are very similar in terms of their look. The S21 has that flat screen and the S20 has a curved screen but I’m not sure that’s a significant enough feature to sway a buyer.

The S21 has the glasstic back while the S20 has the glass back. Both have their pros and cons, the glass looks and feels nicer but the glasstic is more durable and sturdy. In this regard it simply comes down to personal preference. 

I think that Samsung has made a poor decision in removing the micro SD slot in the S21. Having a micro SD slot gives the consumer so many more options. For many people, the upgraded 256GB internal storage in the S21 may not be enough space. Samsung have not provided a reason that I deem understandable for removing what was a perfectly capable feature of the S20 other than they think it’s no longer necessary. This was an area where the Galaxy phones stood out and were unique. Not pushing cloud storage on their consumers was a massive drawcard for a lot of people, but for this next generation of Samsung Galaxy phones, they have rejoined the crowd.

Samsung S20 vs S21: Storage and RAM

The storage options for both phones are the same. You can get 128GB or 256GB models. One key difference is that the S21 does not come with a micro SD slot for more storage, whereas the S20 does have a micro SD slot. 

The S21 also is not being released with a 12GB RAM model. The S20 is available with 8GB of RAM and 12GB of RAM

S21 Storage and RAM:

  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 8GB RAM

S20 Storage and RAM

  • 128GB
  • 8GB RAM
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Samsung S20 vs S21: Price

The S21 does have a cheaper starting price than the S20 at US$799 (£769; NZ$1,499) for a version with 128GB of space and 8GB of RAM. 

The S20 start price was US$999 (£899; NZ$1,899) for the version with 128GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. The price of the Samsung S20 currently is US$600 (£899; NZ$1,499) 

Verdict on S20 vs S21 Price

There isn’t really anything significant to take on board with the price of the S21. It’s standard and fairly priced when compared to other new smartphones. 

The fact that it is cheaper at launch than the S20 was is relatively useless information now that the S20 is almost one year old. What’s interesting is that the S21 is the same price as the S20 now. Usually price is a good indicator of what the better phone is but in this instance the new models are the same price as the old. So making a decision between the S21 and the S20 is no longer a matter of money it’s a matter of what’s the better phone. 

Samsung S20 vs S21: Verdict

There are very few notable upgrades that the S21 provides; there is an equal number of downgrades as there are upgrades. The S21 will be faster than the S20 with its upgraded chipset and will potentially process better quality images. It has a lower start price and it will last a couple hours longer on a single charge. However, it has a lower resolution screen, no real physical upgrades to the cameras, it doesn’t have a charger in the box and doesn’t come with a micro SD slot.

There isn’t a strong case here to upgrade to the S21. A very valuable option would be to buy the S20 instead as it’s the same price as the S21, has a higher resolution screen, the same cameras and comes with a charger. Something that Samsung bragged about for their upcoming S21 release and then went back on. 

In the end, there isn’t much difference with these phones. It will come down to personal preference for the small things like the flat screen of the S21 or the curved screen of the S20 and that’s about it.

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