Samsung is best known for its big, powerful, and obscenely expensive phones. But what does $250 buy you within the Galaxy lineup these days? Getting your head wrapped around Samsung’s budget offerings is an understandably difficult task given their confusing naming scheme and year over year model refreshes, but the Galaxy A21 is one among the newest price-conscious phones from the Korean manufacturer. It’s available on variety people carriers now, including Boost, which is that the version of the phone we reviewed. While the A21 offers an outsized screen and decent battery life, the phone’s overall performance and cameras (for the price) should give budget-conscious big-phone enthusiasts pause.
Design, hardware, what’s within the box
The Galaxy A21 is humongous — it is a little taller and wider than even the S20 Ultra (although the Ultra is thicker). The A21 doesn’t share its expensive cousin’s luxurious screen-to-body ratio, though; whereas the S20 Ultra sports a 6.9-inch display, the A21 packs a touch less ample 6.5-inch screen. Its bezels are hardly distracting, though, especially during this price segment. Also not distracting: the hole-punch selfie camera tucked into the highest left corner.
The screen’s an IPS LCD panel that’s nice and vivid, but it’s only 720p — which is pretty rough at this size, shaking intent on 270 pixels per inch. It also doesn’t get nearly bright enough to comfortably use outdoors on a sunny day. there is a little of a shadow round the hole punch selfie cam, too, though it isn’t particularly irksome when you are not searching for it.
Volume and power keys live along the proper fringe of the phone, and while the ability button is at a fine height, the amount controls sit way too high on the phone’s plastic frame. Unless you have got particularly long feelers, you’ll need to shimmy the phone down in your hand to tweak the amount. The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is similarly out of reach — when holding the phone in an exceedingly natural position, my index just barely reaches the underside of the sensor. this is often not a phone for the small-handed.
The phone’s bottom edge incorporates a USB-C port, a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack (hooray), and one down-firing speaker. The speaker actually sounds okay, all things considered. it isn’t as tinny as I expected, but it’s situated to the left of the USB port, which makes it exceptionally easy to hide after you hold the phone in landscape.
Like its frame, the A21’s rear panel is plastic. i’ve got nothing against plastic bodies in phones; glass is delicate and expensive. But the plastic Samsung uses here includes a glossy, reflective finish, which implies it catches and shows oil from your hands extremely well and stands up poorly to anything which may desire scratching it. Cases aren’t hard to search out, but the phone doesn’t include one — just a 12W power brick and a USB-A-to-C cable.
Software, performance, and battery life
Samsung’s OneUI skin could be a known quantity at this time. But just in case you haven’t used a Galaxy phone since TouchWiz: it’s fine. Samsung’s suite of apps — the dialer, the calculator, the gallery, et cetera — are all lacking the look finesse seen in their Google counterparts and Samsung’s settings menus will be a bit nebulous. But on the entire, OneUI is mature and thoughtful. It doesn’t have any grating quirks to sink the experience, and that i didn’t mind living in it during my time with the A21.
Unfortunately, the phone is totally packed with bloatware. Facebook, Amazon apps, Microsoft apps, two weather apps, and no fewer than four music streaming apps all come preloaded, among others. Boost Mobile itself also had its way with my review unit, stuffing it with junk sort of a “secure Wi-Fi” utility — which costs an additional $2 a month to enable, as repeated notifications will remind you. there isn’t any unlocked variant of the phone, and that i must assume other carriers are more or less even as heavy-handed.
Considering the A21’s Mediatek Helio P35 processor and three gigs of RAM, you most likely wouldn’t expect it to be particularly snappy — and you would be right. Multitasking may be a little bit of a slog, but generally speaking, performance was never bad enough to frustrate me outside of the odd occasion where an app would take some beats to open. The phone visibly struggles under the burden of more demanding games like Asphalt 9: Legends, but simpler titles like Mario Kart Tour run just fine.
Battery life is solid. Once over two days of sporadic mixed use, I managed to eke out about five and a half hours of screen time. Considering that point included gaming, streaming videos over Wi-Fi and 4G, taking photos, and idling for nine around hours overnight, that’s really impressive.
The Galaxy A21 comes with a quad camera setup, as prominent branding next to the sensors eagerly points out. there is a 16.1-megapixel primary shooter, an eight-megapixel ultrawide, a two-megapixel macro, and a two-megapixel depth sensor. the 2 latter cameras are complete junk. lots of manufactures are taking this tack lately: jam in a very few additional cameras and boast about what percentage you’ve. I wish they’d stop.
Macro performance (see above) is straight-up bad. Images are soft and colours are skewed even in ideal lighting. you would be happier cropping a photograph from the first shooter.
Considering the A21’s price, though, i do not hate photos from the most and wide cameras. they’ll produce some passable shots with good light, which is about all you may invite within the budget segment. But they are doing struggle everywhere else. Scenes with high dynamic range are particularly tough, uniformly exhibiting either blown out highlights or crushed blacks. Low light photography is additionally a no-go.