Samsung diversifies its mid-range catalogue into several families. The 'M' stands out mainly for offering huge batteries in cheap phones. The Samsung Galaxy M21 is one of the latest additions to the catalogue. We can already tell you that it has been one of the year's surprises.
Pass through our analysis table this Samsung Galaxy M21, a mid-low range terminal capable of surprising in several key points and with a battery that, as we advance, breaks all expectations.
Design and display: the good news begins
The Samsung Galaxy M21 is a well-designed terminal despite being a budget alternative. On the front, we find some frames well used by the sides and top, although the bottom is not free from a prominent chin. The keypad (as Samsung usually does) is higher than we would like. Still, as it is not a very large terminal, this is not a problem. The terminal is under 16 centimetres, and although it is not a compact alternative, it is appreciated that it is smaller than most of its direct rivals.
If we turn the phone over, we get a pleasant surprise. It is built in plastic, but two points stand out. The first is that the camera module hardly protrudes; it is practically flat. We are not used to modules that do not make the mobile dance when it is on a flat surface, so we applaud this integration. On the other hand, we have a small fingerprint reader that falls right on the index finger, so it all makes sense.
However, the point where this Galaxy M21 has surprised the most is in its screen. It is a panel more worthy of a mobile of 300/350 euros than a mid-low range. It is a Super AMOLED panel of 6.4 inches and Full HD+ resolution. The sharpness is excellent, the viewing angles surprisingly correct, and the calibration very similar to what we have already seen in higher models. To put it in context, a panel reminded us of last year's Galaxy A family (phones of about 400 euros).
In terms of brightness, it is not as spectacular as the S20 family (for almost a fifth of its price), but it looks pretty good even if the sun shines directly on it. In short, a panel well above what is asked of a terminal of this type is worthy of any mid-high-end phone.
If we talk about the audio, the experience is not good. It is not too loud (just above 70 decibels in our tests), the audio is canned and distorted in almost all volume ranges and, in short, it is not too pleasant to use the phone's speaker. On the plus side, however, there is a headphone jack.
An underpowered but well-optimized processor
The Samsung Galaxy M21 is powered by the Exynos 9611. It is a processor that we have already tested on occasion, and that has caused us a few problems in the past. However, this Samsung Galaxy M21 works surprisingly well. We have not found any trace of lag (something difficult with this processor and such a heavy layer); everything opens quickly, and, ultimately, the user experience is good. The set is accompanied by 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal memory expandable via microSD cards up to 512 GB. Only heavy games are more resistant to it, although we expected a more significant drop in sustained performance.
If we talk about biometrics, we have facial recognition via a front camera that fails quite a lot and a fingerprint reader that is not too accurate. We have often not recognized the fingerprint even though we had it registered twice. This is undoubtedly one of the weakest points in the M21.
At the software level, we find One UI 2.1 and Android 10. The terminal has the February patch, which does not favour the device's support. However, as we said, the M21 works surprisingly well and can move the ROM smoothly. About One UI highlights that it is a ROM with many options and preinstalled applications. However, we can configure at the start a good part of those that will be installed or not.
We have to do it while clapping if we talk about the battery. It is the first time I have reached three full days of use with more than ten hours of screen time, a simply spectacular figure. We can exceed 13 or 14 hours of screen time in a single day if we abuse multimedia. This is due to the 6,000mAh battery, the resource-saving processor and the specially optimized M21. Charging takes about three hours, the tribute to pay for having a battery that lasts three days without breaking a sweat.
Only three cameras, but we didn't miss any more.
The Samsung Galaxy M21 has a triple camera configuration: a 48-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle secondary sensor and a dedicated sensor for depth of field. At the photographic level, we already advance that we have also had a surprise. However, let's review the camera app first.
Samsung continues to incorporate its customizable camera application, if somewhat slow and chaotic. We can do everything with it, but there are hidden modes (such as portrait mode or night mode). It works pretty slowly in general (it is striking that it even costs you to open the settings and that the mobile is not slow). It takes some time to set it up, but when we have everything we need, we can start enjoying the camera of this Galaxy M21.
The Samsung Galaxy M21 is a small step above what is expected. It is not a brilliant camera, but considering the device's price, we are facing a pretty capable proposal. It surprises mainly the management of HDR, which has no problem lifting the shadows and respecting the exposure in the sky. Colourimetry and detail are pretty improvable. In terms of white balance, it is quite good.
Even when using the wide angle, the HDR is still excellent, even though this is a smaller and less bright sensor. The detail is still not too good, but the results are more than acceptable considering the product range.
Portrait mode surprises with good cropping, although the bokeh is still somewhat artificial. The main problem is that HDR stops working, so the shadows remain unlifted. In case there are a lot of light incidences, we are more than likely to have burnt parts in the photograph.
Night photography Mode
The results are not so good at night, something to be expected in this range. However, the textures are better than expected because, although there is no great detail, no aggressive noise reducer ends with all texture, as is usual in this type of terminal. The night mode brings more luminosity to the scene by exposing it for a longer time, but it does not manage to obtain more detail.
The Samsung Galaxy M21 is one of the best purchases we can make for 200 euros. Its main weaknesses are the audio and the doubt of how it will age at the level of updates (the processor does not give too much hope a few years from now). However, given the excellent work at the optimization level, we have nothing to worry about.
The camera and screen are a step ahead of what is asked in 2020 for a terminal in this price range. Although it is not the most powerful alternative, it offers these two essential differential points to consider.