System Performance

Following our more in-depth review of the SoCs powering the S21 family, today we’re focusing more on the general system performance and user experience. In many instances, this aspect of a device is defined by the software making good use of the available hardware capabilities more than the actual hardware itself.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

In the PCMark results, both the Exynos and Snapdragon S21 Ultras showcase massively impressive results. While the Snapdragon 888 variant of the S21 isn’t all that much of a massive upgrade compared to the Snapdragon 865 powered S20 series phones, the new Exynos 2100 S21’s are very much leaving its predecessors far behind.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView

JetStream 2 - OS Webview

The web-browsing tests are showcasing similar results, with the Snapdragon S21’s showcasing smaller generational boosts, while the Exynos S21 sees massive performance uplifts.

General Performance - Outstanding

In general, the performance of the new Galaxy S21 series this year is nothing short of outstanding. In terms of software optimisations and general responsiveness of the devices, they’re practically perfect, and essentially the way the phones now behave is as optimal as can be achieved whilst still remaining reasonable with every-day power efficiency.

While the 120Hz mode last year came at a great cost in power efficiency, and I even personally opted to use 60Hz in everyday usage because of that, the new adaptive refresh rate displays on the S21 series, particularly the superior implementation on the S21 Ultra, means that most people will be able to enjoy this highly user-experience augmenting feature without any major drawbacks this year.

Introduction & Design GPU Performance
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  • sanjeev2.k - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    I am assuming system wide dark theme was not turned on during battery life test. So by how much roughly will the battery life improve if dark mode is turned on? Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    It doesn't affect our tests, unless I also enable the browser dark mode. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    I mostly like my S21 Ultra a lot, but I still hate a lot about the software. Even as OneUI has improved greatly over the years, there's some really stupid stuff here or there. Like I should be able to disable or uninstall Samsung's duplicate apps (calendar, contacts, clock, etc.) without adb. But that's fine, there's a workaround for that, so that's just annoying.

    What really annoys me that I can't work around as far as I'm aware is that I can't disable half of the unnecessary notifications that Samsung gives me. Like constant notifications when my Bluetooth headset battery is low (and if I swipe them away they come right back for each percent lost). Or a notification for do not disturb being on (even though DND is in my quick settings). Or a notification that I need to unlock my phone after a reboot to see more notifications. Android has settings to turn notifications off, but Samsung doesn't let me flip the switch on ones they think I need to be forced to see.

    And other than that, I dislike the scoped storage issues with Google Photos, and the fact I can't set Samsung's camera app to go directly to Google Photos instead of their inadequate Gallery app. And I'm slightly disappointed that the S21 removed ANT+ support. And I hate that I can't set the power/side button to the devices menu like I did with my Pixel 4XL. But I worked around that with sideActions set to go directly to SmartThings instead.

    But still, overall I really like it. It's faster than my Pixel 4XL, has a better camera (though I continue to dislike Samsung's post-processing in general, it sometimes smears things), I missed having the capability to use the S-pen compared to my even older Note8, and the fingerprint reader over face scanning is a huge bonus in the Covid era.

    I just really don't get why Samsung wastes their time on duplicate apps nobody wants, or why they prevent the user from actually taking control over their experience. Oh well. At least there's workarounds for most of it.
    Reply
  • Edwardmcardle - Friday, February 26, 2021 - link

    They messed up the split screen multitasking imo. It's still has the advantage of keyboard pop not bumping the top half off the screen, but swiping home now minamises BOTH screens , where it should normally only minimise the active screen Reply
  • Wereweeb - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Yeah, they really f*cked up with the screens. Less than 400 PPI in an S-series? My last Sammy was an S6 Edge, and that f*cking thing had a 577 PPI screen.

    Sure, younger me couldn't really tell the difference to a good 1080p 5-incher, but it simply doesn't make sense to decrease the resolution *after* display sizes have increased so much that the sharpness of QHD is actually noticeable to the average user.

    Glad they added back a flat screen option, I've always despised curved displays (I didn't buy that S6 Edge, it was handed down). But all in all, it sounds more like an A92+ than an S21.
    Reply
  • Retycint - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    To make things worse, it's a pentile/non-full-rgb matrix, so it's going to look worse than a 1080p LCD of the same size. Why pay $1000 when you can get a QHD 120Hz in the Mi 11 for a couple hundred less? Reply
  • DJ XtAzY - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Anything on the video quality, or was that in a different article? Reply
  • BedfordTim - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Also anything about the fingerprint sensor? Poor Amazon reviews were one of the reasons I chose a P30Pro over the S20 last time. Reply
  • Edwardmcardle - Friday, February 26, 2021 - link

    I think the ultrasonic is the best available, works with screen off and this generation is exceptionally fast and accurate Reply
  • bcronce - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    I saw USCC now has unlimited plans that were cheaper than the plan I was on. The wife went in to switch our lines over and came back with an S21 basic for me to place my S7. At $13/m over a 30 month contract, we will only be paying $400 for the phone.

    My last plan was technically unlimited, but only in the sense that going over 2GB would drop me into 3G speeds with no overage. But now with truly unlimited, I no longer have artificial caps on speed, only have to compete with congestion. For an extra $10/m, I could get 25GB of "high priority" data, and $20/m extra, 50GB. I'm fine with best effort and no artificial limits.
    Reply

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