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Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What’s new and different?

Following scores of leaks in the weeks before its announcement, on Thursday, Samsung unveiled the latest Galaxy S lineup of smartphones in an online event.

With the drastically different design and relatively lower prices that Samsung unveiled, the new devices have received a lot of attention, but how did Samsung get here?

From downgrading the displays and removing expandable memory, there is a lot different from the last generation. This article compares the S21 series against the S20 to help you stay informed about what’s new and different between the two generations of Galaxy flagships.

Also read: Snapdragon 888 vs Snapdragon 865+: How far has Qualcomm come?


Smartphone design has started to become monotonous with each manufacturer picking up design cues from the other. But this year, Samsung has tried to bring something different to the table with the camera module.

The Korean manufacturer has maintained a contrasting camera module, but the housing now seems to melt into the device’s frame.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What's new and different?
S21 Ultra, S21+ and S21 (left to right)

A new matte finish is also available across the lineup. The smaller S21 also continues the trend of replacing the glass rear with plastic. Last year’s models all featured a muted paint job but reflective glass panels, giving them a glossy and fingerprint-prone look.

Just like last year’s Note 20 Ultra, the S21 series also makes use of Gorilla Glass Victus that promises better scratch resistance and drop protection.

The devices are available in the following colour variants:

Galaxy S20 Series

  • Galaxy S20: Grey, Blue, Pink
  • Galaxy S20+:  Grey, Blue, Black
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra: Grey, Black

Galaxy S21 Series

  • Galaxy S21: Violet, White, Pink, Grey
  • Galaxy S21+: Violet, Silver, Black
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra: Black, Silver

In some regions, devices ordered from Samsung official website are available in additional colour variants. These include Red and Gold for S21+ and Brown, Navy, and Titanium for S21 Ultra.

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High refresh rate panels are a sought after feature in smartphone displays and last year’s models did offer this but with a caveat.

The S20 series featured a QHD+ display, but if users wanted to utilise the 120Hz option, the resolution would need to be set to 1080p. On the newer models — S21 and S21+ — an FHD+ (2400 x 1800) panel has replaced the QHD+ (3200 x 1440).

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What's new and different?
The S20 Series featured 1440p panels across the lineup

The S21 Ultra keeps the QHD+ display and now supports 120Hz at that resolution — a clear upgrade over the S20 Ultra. The software is also now capable of adapting to the content displayed — similar to Apple’s ProMotion tech on the iPad Pro line.

The S21 Ultra also features support for S Pen that is now available as an additional accessory. If you already own one it will also function with the new smartphone.

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Processor and Battery

This year the SoC’s utilised also offer a significant generational leap. The Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 present inside these new devices now have integrated 5G modems, a 5nm fabrication process for increased efficiency and, 25 and 30 per cent improvement in CPU performance over the last-generation — Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 — respectively.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What's new and different?
Samsung S21 series feature the Snapdragon 888 in certain regions

What might be a gripe for customers is that some regions will still have devices sold with an Exynos processor. While Samsung claims they have improved their chipset only time will tell.

Driving these chipsets on the last year’s models were 4000mAh, 4500mAh and 5000 mAh batteries on the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra, respectively. In the newer devices, the batteries remain the same on the S21 and S21 Ultra but on the S21+ has been bumped up to 4800 mAh.

All phones support 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging. S20 Ultra also supported speeds up to 45W which has been removed from S21 Ultra.

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Unlike the slightly different camera system between the S20 and S20+, the newer models — S21 and S21+ — feature the same setup.

The S20 came with a triple-lens system comprising, a 12MP ultra-wide, a 12MP wide-angle and a 64MP telephoto lens. The S20+ added a depth sensor to this setup giving it a total of four lenses.

S21 and S21 Plus feature a setup similar to the last generation including a 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide-angle and 64MP telephoto lens. Hence, as has been a trend, users can expect improved camera performance due to updated computational photography algorithms.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What's new and different?
Galaxy S21 Plus

The S20 Ultra model featured a quad-camera setup which included a 12MP Ultra Wide sensor, 108MP Wide-angle sensor, a 48MP Telephoto lens and a depth sensor. But the large sensor size of the 108MP haunted the model with focus hunting issues — a solution to this came forth when Samsung included a laser autofocus system on the Note 20 Ultra.

The S21 Ultra implements the improvements made in Note 20 Ultra to offer a quad-camera setup which brings a 12MP Ultra Wide lens with Auto Focus, a 108MP Wide-angle lens, and two 10MP Telephoto lens, one of which brings 3x optical zoom and another that allows for 10x optical zoom.

Also read: iPad Air 2020 vs iPad Pro 11-inch 2020: Is the 11-inch model worth considering?

Storage and Pricing

While the S21 lineup has seen price drops across major western markets, in India, the smartphones have seen a small hike in pricing — likely due to the inclusion of 5G enabled hardware which was missing in last year’s models.

Apart from this, if you were a consumer who preferred Samsung for their expandable storage, unfortunately, the S21 lineup does away with it.

The pricing according to storage variants for the various models is listed below.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Series

  • S20 started at INR 66,999 or USD 999 for 8GB of RAM (12GB in USA) and 128GB internal storage.
  • S20+ started at INR 73,999 or USD 1,199 for 8GB of RAM (12GB in USA) and 128GB internal storage.
  • S20 Ultra started at INR 92,999 or USD 1,399 for 12GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Series

  • S21 starts at INR 69,999 or USD 799 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.
  • S21+ starts at INR 81,999 or USD 999 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.
  • S21 Ultra starts at INR 1,05,999 or USD 1,199 for 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.
CategoriesGalaxy S20 SeriesGalaxy S21 Series
DisplayS20: 6.2-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display
S20+: 6.7-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display
S20 Ultra: 6.9-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display
(120Hz usable only at FHD+ resolution)
S21: 6.2-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display (adaptive 120Hz, between 48Hz-120Hz)
S21+: 6.7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display (adaptive 120Hz, between 48Hz-120Hz)
S21 Ultra: 6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display (adaptive 120Hz, between 10Hz-120Hz)
ProcessorSnapdragon 865, Exynos 990
(chipsets vary according to region)
Snapdragon 888, Exynos 2100
(chipsets vary according to region)
S20: 12MP Ultra Wide + 12MP Wide-angle + 64MP Telephoto
S20+: 12MP Ultra Wide + 12MP Wide-angle + 64MP Telephoto + Depth sensor
S20 Ultra: 12MP Ultra Wide + 108MP Wide-angle + 48 MP Telephoto (3x zoom) + Depth sensor

S20: 10MP
S20+: 10MP
S20 Ultra: 40MP
S21: 12MP Ultra Wide + 12MP Wide-angle + 64MP Telephoto
S21+: 12MP Ultra Wide + 12MP Wide-angle + 64MP Telephoto
S21 Ultra: 12MP Ultra Wide + 108MP Wide-angle + 10 MP Telephoto (3x zoom) + 10MP Telephoto (1ox zoom) + Laser Auto Focus sensor

S21: 10MP
S21+: 10MP
S21 Ultra: 40MP
StorageS20: 128GB
S20+: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
S20 Ultra: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
(variants may vary according to regions)
S21: 128GB, 256GB
S21+: 128GB, 256GB
S21 Ultra: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
(variants may vary according to regions)
RAMS20: 8GB, 12GB
S20+: 8GB, 12GB
S20 Ultra: 8GB, 12GB, 16GB
(variants may vary according to region)
S21: 8GB
S21+: 8GB
S21 Ultra: 12GB, 16GB
BatteryS20: 4000mAh
S20+: 4500mAh
S20 Ultra: 5000mAh
S21: 4000mAh
S21+: 4800 mAh
S21 Ultra: 5000mAh

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