Sunday, January 31, 2021

New Smartphones, OTA Updates & Tech Launched in Jan 2021 – Monthly Wrap-up

In the first month of 2021, several big announcements came from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas. Also, Samsung unveiled the 2021 flagship Android smartphones in the first month itself. In case if you have missed out on catching up on all the smartphone-related news from this month, here is our tech […]

The post New Smartphones, OTA Updates & Tech Launched in Jan 2021 – Monthly Wrap-up appeared first on PhoneRadar.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Gotransverse billing platform

Gotransverse is a cloud-based software platform that allows businesses to take control of their billing and associated financial management tasks. Developed by a team that has expertise in the billing arena, Gotransverse uses its core platform to deliver a selection of solutions of business of all sizes. Automation is at the heart of much of the functionality found within Gotransverse, with fast and efficient order-to-cash tools on offer for dealing with billing, rating, collections, mediation, analytics and revenue recognition. 

Based in Austin, Texas, Gotransverse continues to expand its intelligent billing and subscription management platform with a growing series of updates and improvements to its core cloud-based setup.

Gotransverse

The Gotransverse interface and selection of menu options makes using the software a doddle (Image credit: Gotransverse)

Pricing

Due to the bespoke nature of the Gotransverse package options there are no obvious off-the-shelf prices available. However, if you think that the SaaS package could help your business improve its overall efficiency then it’s possible to request a demo. Following on from that the sales team will be able to formulate a tailor-made edition that ticks all of your requirement boxes. The other added benefit is that Gotransverse offers a scalable solution, meaning that you can boost its capabilities if your business grows over time.

Gotransverse

Companies that have high volumes of data to process will find the levels of automation highly useful (Image credit: Gotransverse)

Features

Gotransverse is a SaaS solution that offers all of the convenience you get with the cloud. It also comes packed with a good selection of features, with several key areas that leave a lasting impression. Account holders can make use of the Usage & Rating aspect of the software, with a product catalog that acts as home to all of your products and services. 

It’s possible to manage subscriptions here, in a variety of different connotations, while the usage and rating tools themselves provide a great insight into exactly what your customers are doing with your product and allow you to tailor pricing accordingly. 

The Billing & Invoicing aspect of Gotransverse offers easy management of accounts, bill calculation and invoicing too, all of which can be integrated with your CRM, ERP and other applications. Revenue Management, meanwhile, offers general ledger and revenue recognition tools while there are several add-on products available too. These include mediation, collections and dunning management, plus tools for managing tax. 

Gotransverse

Volume invoicing can be easily handled thanks to the processing power of Gotransverse (Image credit: Gotransverse)

Performance

While Gotransverse has been built to fit snugly around a variety of different business sizes its performance capability means that it is very well suited to companies that deal in data heavy product catalogs. The Gotransverse revenue technology seems more than able to handle scaling up where needed, especially if you're running a business that tends to deal with a high volume of transactions. 

There’s the added bonus of Gotransverse being able to handle revenue recognition standards including ASC 606, plus there’s the flexibility of having aggregated and detailed journal entries processed and sent directly to your general ledger. The system was developed between engineers and accountants, which therefore makes it suitably robust.

Gotransverse

The system has also been created to allow easy management of dunning issues (Image credit: Gotransverse)

Ease of use

One of the best things about Gotransverse is its interface design and the package comes with overall useability that makes many complex tasks much more simple. Being able to stay on top of dynamic pricing in a flexible fashion means you can test and launch new models as and when you need to. 

Gotransverse

The Gotransverse menu system means you can get to any area quickly and easily as and when it's needed (Image credit: Gotransverse)

The actual Gotransverse interface is great on the eyes, with a combination of white with black text and some cool blue flourishes. The menu system is nicely laid out too and even more labour intensive areas of the software are generally easy to master. Gotransverse backs that up by having some really good guides that enable you to pick through all of the different areas and easily check that you’re doing things right.

Gotransverse

Gotransverse offers a full range of support features and services should you need them (Image credit: Gotransverse)

Support

As with other SaaS companies there is a solid support network for users of Gotransverse. The company offers an online support hub, which contains basics such as a comprehensive user guide and all of the contact details should you need to get in touch. Support options include being able to raise a ticket via a dedicated email address along with phone numbers that let you call at anytime and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

There’s also a voicemail option available between 7am and 7pm CST, Monday through Friday. You’ll find some tips on help center best practices too, which might make it easier to get your exact query dealt with by outlining how best to submit the information needed. There are also links to various resources on the Gotransverse website, including a blog and a library of useful features related to the software.

Final verdict

Gotransverse offers business users a great SaaS solution that comes armed with multiple tools for covering all tasks related to billing, inventory management and more. While you’ll really need to get in touch with them in order to find out just how much it’ll cost you to use the service based on your needs, there is plenty of promise here. 

The interface is ideally suited to all levels of user, with a simplistic selection of workspace tools that allow powerful control of your company data. Gotransverse also seems to enjoy a great deal of praise for its support services, which given the level of functionality and potential on offer adds additional positive appeal.

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

Considering the Synology DS1621+ is basically just a compact black box, non-NAS fans mightn't be able to understand why this one had the TechRadar Pro team so excited.

SPECS

CPU: AMD Ryzen V1500B (quad-core 2.2 GHz)
RAM: 4GB DDR4 ECC (Dual slot upgradeable to 32GB)
Drive Bays: 6 x 3.5”/2.5” + 2 x M.2 Caching
Max Capacity: 108TB
LAN ports: 4 x RJ-45 1GbE
PCIe Expansion: 1x Gen3 8x Slot
USB 3.0 ports: 3
Hardware Encryption: AES-NI
Dimensions: 282 x 243 x 166 mm
Weight: 5.1kg
Warranty: 3 years (extendable to 5 years) 

Is it its inclusion of dual M.2 NVMe SSD slots? No. The PCIe slot for expansion cards? Nope again! Actually wait... yes, those last two are definitely exciting, but they're not exactly new, and the DS1621+ truly stands out thanks to something that is: its AMD Ryzen CPU, which is a first for a Synology NAS, and a welcome change in a space that's dominated by Intel processors.

Of course, businesses that already have a NAS such as Synology's own excellent DS1618+ might not be so excited, and the upgraded DS1621+ has a lot to prove. But for those businesses who are looking at upgrading from a less-capable NAS, or getting a NAS for the first time, the DS1621+ is worth investigating.

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

Inside the classic Synology chassis is a rarely seen Ryzen CPU. (Image credit: Future)

Synology DS1621+ price and availability

The Synology DS1621+ with the default 4GB of RAM will set you back $799  / £799 / AU$1,499, and adding a 16GB memory upgrade module will cost you an additional $350 / £400 / AU$600. 

The DS1621+ also supports PCIe add on cards, including the basic single 10GbE E10G18-T1 for $160 / £150 / AU$250, the dual port E10G18-T2 for $270 / £270 / AU$420, and the dual-port SPF+ ready E10G17-F2 for $280 / £275 / AU$450. It also support a range of third party PCIe network cards, which are listed on the Synology site. 

If you fill up the six internal 3.5" drive bays, the DS1621+'s core storage can be further expanded via eSATA using up to two Synology DX517 Expansion Units, which cost around $570 / £500 / AU$750 each.

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

Round the back you get four Gigabit Ethernet ports that can work together for faster access speeds or provide failover support. (Image credit: Future)

Design and features

Under the hood of the DS1621+ we have a Ryzen V1500B CPU, packing four cores that burble along at 2.2GHz. In contrast to many Intel NAS CPUs, it supports two threads per core instead of just one. One downside to this AMD chip is the lack of hardware transcoding, meaning this is not really a NAS aimed at those who want higher-end video capabilities. 

The DS1621+ comes populated with 4GB of ECC DDR4 in one slot of two slots, and can support up to 32GB. Despite the higher price, it’s great to see the ECC RAM used for improved protection against data corruption.

The NAS has two M.2 2280 NVMe slots built in, leaving the PCIe x8 slot free for network upgrades. Notably, the M.2 slots are for caching drives only, and can’t actually be used to increase your storage capacity. Round the back are four gigabit LAN ports supporting link aggregation and failover, which means you can boost performance beyond gigabit, provided you have a compatible managed switch. 2.5GbE would have been fantastic, and is offered by some of the competition at a similar price point - albeit with lower performance and no ECC RAM.

You also get three USB 3.0 ports (one on the front) plus dual eSATAs. The latter is used for adding external drive bay expansions, and an extra 16 bays and 108TB total is possible. The NAS CPU itself has no fan on the heatsink, but the DS1621+ has dual rear 92mm fans that provide decent airflow, and keep your drive array from getting too hot. 

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

The DS1621+ has dual M.2 slots built in for SSD caching. (Image credit: Future)

Setup and software

Getting the Synology DS1621+ up and running is as simple as dropping some drives into the tooless bays, plugging it in, hitting the power button  and pointing your browser at find.synology.com, or heading to the NAS IP address. Installing SSDs is via the drive bays at the front, while adding a PCIe card involves removing a couple of screws and the outer shell. The RAM is accessed on the bottom of the NAS under a dedicated cover.  

Much of the value of a Synology NAS comes from the software, and the DS1621+ is no exception. The full list of features and options is extremely long. Fortunately Synology have a handy online demo where you can try it out yourself. There are also over 100 different apps available that can add extra functionality - you can check out the list here.

As hinted at earlier, the DS1621+ isn’t media focused - it's aimed at more business-oriented tasks such as data storage, backups, surveillance, virtual machines and other mid-range server work. A range of NAS-hosted productivity apps are included as part of the DSM OS, including Synology Drive, Calendar, Office and more, which is comparable to your own privately hosted array of collaborative Google Docs products. 

Synology Surveillance Station is another key app, and it's a great option for businesses that want to create an affordable camera and security system that is easily set up and managed. Synology virtual machine manager is likewise also very handy, as it allows you to quickly and simply set up instances of Windows and Linux that can be remotely accessed. 

The Synology mobile apps are also worthy of a mention, and make it very easy to access and manage your NAS remotely.

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

The DS1621+ has a PCIe slot, which supports a range of 10GbE networking cards. (Image credit: Future)

Another big focus for businesses is data backup, and Synology does make it very easy. While backups can be done in numerous ways, Synology has created a free all-in-one app called Active Backup for Business that will let you do many elements in one place. Since the DS1621+ is a business focused NAS, we installed the app and put it to the test. (It's also available to try out through the Synology demo site linked above.)

The thing that caught our eye is that the software can backup cloud data from Google, as well Microsoft 365 - definitely an area that can be tricky to manage. It also has backup support for computers, servers and virtual machines. Generally, Active Backup for Business was easy to set up, and the online documentation is reasonably good. There’s quite a few hoops to jump through when using it for Google Workspace (aka G Suite), whereas local network backups are much easier.

Backing up and restoring our data had no issues, albeit for a number of devices only comparable to a small business. It’s a pretty good overall solution when paired with the DS1621+, and for a small but business looking to get into their first comprehensive backup, it’s a nice selling point. 

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

Installing drives into the lockable bays requires no tools, and only takes a few minutes. (Image credit: Future)

Performance and testing

We dropped six 14TB Seagate IronWolf  HDDs into the DS1621+, configured in Synology Hybrid Synology RAID. We stuck with the 4GB of RAM, but for good measure we also added an older but still fast Samsung 960 Pro 500GGB M.2 NVME SSD, plus a Synology E10G18-T1 10 GbE network card. NAS performance has a lot of factors, and despite the Ryzen CPU giving up to double the processing power of a comparable CPU such as the Intel C3538 (used in the DS1618+), there are still other bottlenecks in the system.

Our testing found the overall performance of the DS1621+ excellent, and it has plenty of grunt to run a wide variety of apps, host virtual machines, manage a IP camera system and more at the same time. The NAS was able to saturate a 1gBE connection no matter what else we had it doing, peaking at 729 Mbps reading and 710 Mbps writing. With the 10 GbE PCIe connection, it hit 3889 Mbps reading, and 2146Mbps writing, which is getting closer to the limits of the drive array. 

In our testing we saw performance for random access improve up to 2.1x using SSD caching, but for most uses it was a lot lower. The biggest real world difference was when running multiple virtual machines, which were a lot more responsive with SSD caching. We also tested with 16GB of RAM, which helped a lot for memory heavy applications. 

The DS1621+is pretty efficient (we peaked at 77 watts with drives, but mostly used under 40 watts) so the fans did not have to work too hard, but a decent drive amount of noise escapes the NAS.  

What does all this mean for real world use? The DS1621+ is fast enough to get the best from your existing network, can work effectively as a server, and has plenty of upgrade options to leapfrog potential bottlenecks for more specific applications. In other words, a great result. 

Synology DiskStation DS1621+

Installing extra RAM in the DS1621+ is via the dedicated cover underneath and definitely worthwhile to maximise performance. (Image credit: Future)

 Final verdict

It’s not perfect, but for the right business looking for fast yet affordable mid-range data handling, the DS1621+ has a lot to offer. It’s easy to bemoan the lack of 2.5GbE but the PCIe slot means 10GbE is a reasonably priced upgrade for those who truly need it, plus you get SSD caching built in. 

As always, the Synology software experience is fantastic, and the range of productivity apps only continues to improve and grow. The Ryzen CPU is a joy despite the lack of media focused features, and we hope to see more AMD based NAS in the future.

Overall Synology has outdone itself, and the DS1621+ is a very versatile little business NAS for a fair price.

Should I buy the Synology DiskStation DS1621+?

 Buy it if...

You want to run server applications
The powerful little Ryzen CPU is great at running multiple resource hungry apps, such as virtual machines or a large surveillance camera setup. Even better, it doesn’t compromise network speed when under load.

You'll use SSD caching
Having dual M.2 SSD slots built in is a huge win for users that need fast access to cached data, and want to maximise performance without needing to add in a PCIe card.

You will likely need speed upgrades in the future
The PCIe slot on the DS1621+ means you can easily (and relatively cheaply) add one or two 10GbE ethernet ports if the need for bandwidth exceeds the four built in gigabit connections.

 Don’t buy it if...

You already have a similar spec
NAS The DS1621+ is a great all round option, but even with the Ryzen CPU and ECC RAM, it’s not a mind blowing update over many of the excellent older Synology models.

You need media specific features
The Ryzen CPU brings ECC RAM, but also means no media focused features such as hardware transcoding or HDMI. That’s no issue for the intended buyers, but worth noting.

You want 2.5 or 10GbE out of the box
Being able to install a PCIe card is great, but if you need very high speed network access right from day one, consider a different model with 2.5 or 10GbE built in.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Maxoak Bluetti EB150 1.5Kw portable power station

With more people finding themselves working from home as a result of the pandemic, being surrounded with the right tools is a must. A power generator is essential to guard against potential failures on the power grid. The design of such a device and making it portable is no easy feat; importance has to be given to the battery type and capacity while not neglecting crucial aspects such as overcharge protection and ease of use.

Unlike other manufacturers of portable power storage, Maxoak, known for their Bluetti line of products, have been in the industry for a long time. Since 2009, they have made a name for themselves thanks to their reliable construction, the integration of quality battery cells and a simple user interface. 

Price and availability

For a special price of $1099 after a $195 rebate with code EB150200, the buyer gets 1.5kW/h of battery capacity and supports up to 1kW of power. The price point of this product makes it very attractive, given that the user gets a proven technology with high-quality materials.

Design

The EB150 reviewed here remains first and foremost a power bank on steroids. To that, Maxoak adds what is usually offered by the competition: a pure sine-wave inverter, good conversion efficiency, a lot of battery capacity and high output power rating. Other nice-to-have features include USB Type-C power-delivery, high-current USB Type-A sockets, a regulated 12V car adapter DC output and two AC outputs to cover most typical applications. 

Side Panel

(Image credit: Future)

The Bluetti EB150 can be mistaken for a small PC tower, measuring 37cm x 16.5cm x 36cm. The handle sets it apart from being a computer and tells that it is heavy. At 17.2kg, it surely requires some effort to be carried around. Four large rubber feet prevent any slippage that can occur with many wires connected to the unit. The aluminium alloy case has a powered finish and comes in either blue or black colors. The beige plastic on the front and back gives a vintage look to the generator.

Front Panel

(Image credit: Future)

The front panel groups low voltage output connectors, a large LCD user interface with three push buttons, an airflow outlet and a single input power jack for charging. Two AC sockets and a fan are located at the back. With the EB150 turned-on, the fan is always activated but throttles between low and high depending on the connected load, thus giving a reasonable noise level when in use.

The generator has an efficiency of about 88% which is normal for this class of device. The quality of the inverter output voltage manifests itself in a low THDV or total harmonic distortion value of less than 5%, typical of the pure-sine inverter technology used in the EB150.

Back Panel

(Image credit: Future)

The various USB ports can output either 5V at 3A for the Type-A or up to 20V at 2.25A for the Type-C through power-delivery. The 12V cigarette lighter socket is regulated at 12.2V and has a maximum current rating of 9A. The DC input of the EB150 can accept a maximum of 10A while supporting up to 60V. That said, the input power is limited to 500W which can only be achieved through the use of solar panels, while an MPPT design guarantees an optimal charge. 

AC Adaptor

(Image credit: Future)

Charging using the supplied 160W AC adapter will be substantially longer than through 500W solar panels, taking roughly 10 hours to reach maximum capacity from a discharged state. This time goes down to three hours when using 500W panels.

In Use

(Image credit: Future)

In use

The Maxoak Bluetti EB150 is ready to be used out-of-the box. The user is advised to do a first full charge before using it. Charging begins when the AC adapter jack is plugged-in and stops automatically once the batteries reach full capacity. The only other accessory supplied is a high-current PV solar charge cable.

All interactions except charging requires pressing push-buttons. In order to turn-on the unit, the power button has to be held for at least two seconds. After that, the display comes to life and shows the state of the internal battery as well as power consumption of various sockets. The AC and DC sections are also enabled using their buttons by holding for two seconds. A green LED located next to each push-button turns on whenever an action, such as power-on, is registered by the system. This is useful to know the state of the unit at a glance.

The power measurement is done in real-time and appears brightly thanks to the backlight and the LCD high contrast. For outputs less than 30W, the meters will show 0W. To save power, the backlight will turn off after one minute. The LCD also outputs troubleshooting codes if the system detects an abnormal operation. These can be further checked in the provided user manual. All in all, the display is simple yet effective at giving all important information about the generator.

The Bluetti implements several safety features that guarantee adequate operation in the long-run while under maximum load. First the battery management system constantly monitors the Lithium polymer cells for over/under charging cases. The 120V inverter is also guarded against over/under voltage and over-current scenarios. Errors that are critical such as a dead battery cell will have to be addressed by returning the unit. Each EB150 comes with a one year warranty.

Finally, the EB150 was tried as an uninterrupted power supply for a modern PC (Ryzen 3800, 64GB RAM, 2TB SSD). It performed relatively well such that the battery was always fully charged with no apparent hardware glitch. With the PC connected, the generator displayed an average power consumption of just over 150W. Hence, using the AC block adapter was enough to keep the system running. On the other hand, the cooling fan was always on, thus preventing the EB150 from being suitable for office use.

Competition

The Bluetti is well surrounded by competition but only few can match the capability or build of the EB150. The Jackery Power Station 1000 is similar to the EB150 with its 1kW inverter but with a 1kW/hour battery, has two-third the battery capacity. The Power Station 1000 is also made of plastic compared to the aluminium shell of the Bluetti, while the power measurement also lags compared to the real-time nature of the EB150 power meter. Finally, the Bluetti beats the Jackery’s best charge time of eight hours thanks to its 500W charge rating.

The EF ECOFLOW Portable Power Station Delta is very similar in construction to the EB150, with a case that looks like a PC tower. That said, the ECOFLOW is more pricey at $1800 while also offering less juice, with its 1260W/hour battery. The EB150 batteries should support more charge cycles when compared to the ECOFLOW since the latter charges at a much higher current. This raises the temperature of the cells subsequently decreasing their lifetime.

The Goal Zero YetiX 1500-W generator is another competitor but costs almost twice as much for the same inverter and battery specifications. The YetiX uses batteries based on the older Lithium-Ion chemistry. This results in a shorter number of charge cycles compared to the Lithium Iron Phosphate used in the EB150.

Other less popular brands can also be purchased on Amazon. The SUNGZU Portable Power Station 1000W is similar to the EB150 but has poor customer feedback on Amazon. 

Final verdict

Maxoak’s high-end products also pack features such as wireless phone charging and color display, hence catering to a niche clientele with a more distinct and youthful taste. A portable power station is a product that needs no introduction. The green twist to this technology is that it can be connected to solar cells, hence reducing its ecological footprint.

The Bluetti EB150 faithfully treads the same path; is one of the best portable power generators with an output power of 1000W or more. A simple user interface along with a lot of battery capacity result in a balanced product that does not cost a fortune. 

The build construction is also a plus thanks to an aluminum shell that will surely outlast the batteries. A generous amount of USB sockets and a regulated cigarette lighter socket also increase its usefulness. Last but not least, the EB150 incorporates the latest in battery chemistry thanks to the use of Lithium Iron Phosphate which should provide a longer life compared to older battery generations.

FatCow

Launched in 1998, FatCow is one of the oldest web hosting providers on the market, as well as the one with the most peculiar name. The company is based in Albuquerque (USA) with an aim to deliver a budget-friendly and easy-to-use hosting solution to all businesses regardless of their size. Besides, another notable selling point is their eco-friendly approach, as they claim to power up all of their offices and facilities using wind energy.

For all those wondering why the name “FatCow”, the company provided a semi-satisfactory answer on their main website. Well, to be precise, they’ve answered a question with another question (Why call a computer an apple?) and have completely avoided giving a straight answer. We can only presume that there is no special secret or hidden meaning behind the company name.

At present FatCow employs two data centers, both in Boston (USA). They claim that both are equipped with constant security monitoring, that they run on N+1 power (both A/C and D/C) and have identical network architecture and equipment.

Choosing “Around the Farm” on the main menu will present you with a decent “About” section, “Testimonials” (which is a collection of cherry-picked comments about the company), “Press” (an archive with nothing newer than 2010) and FatCow’s official blog. The latter one looks white and plain in style with a sidebar listing all articles by date of publication. They range from the April of 2009 up to April of 2016, where they seem to stop. As an alternative, you can use a search box. The articles themselves are often written in how-to manner, seem rather helpful and often feature a large number of responses from past users (mostly questions), making the blog feel somewhat like a support forum, which is actually not a bad thing.

Pricing

The Original FatCow Plan includes a domain, website builder 24/7 support and more (Image credit: FatCow)

Plans and pricing

As a part of their marketing strategy, FatCow regularly offers coupons, discounts and promotional prices, particularly those aimed at first-time users. There are four main hosting plans varying in type, size and purpose. 

The first one, called the “Original FatCow'', covers shared hosting solutions ideal for both blogs and web stores. It starts at $4.08 (which is a promotional price) per month and provides unlimited number of mailboxes, “oodles” disk space and bandwidth, SSL certificate, free domain registration and a charge-free point-and-click website builder.

Besides this, FatCow offers WordPress hosting with two different-sized plans, VPS and dedicated servers, with the last two coming with three available plans.

All above-mentioned plans go with a 30-day money-back guarantee, but it is valid with credit-card payments only, which seems rather reductive although not unseen.

Payments can be made by all major credit cards and PayPal.

Ease of use

Choosing a plan with FatCow is a pretty simple user experience, since all of its features are presented in an easy-to-understand and transparent way. And, if you want to see more, there is a full feature list you can access via sidebar. There you can learn about everything included in that hosting package: site management tools, marketing tools, e-commerce features, available applications, programming, platform and more. All customers will get $100 worth of credit for both Google Ads and Bing, which is a welcome bonus.

After settling upon a hosting plan, you’ll be asked to register a new domain or use an old one, if you already own it. New users will get one for free, but for the period of one year only, after which they’ll be charged the full amount. Refreshingly, both purchasing a plan and creating an account with FatCow doesn’t take too much time or effort. After providing them with rather basic contact information, choosing a billing cycle and selecting a payment method, you’ll be proceeding to checkout and payment.

It’s important to point out that some of the “website essentials” such as “Website Security” and “Site Backup & Restore” will come pre-selected. Therefore, if you don't want them you’ll have to deselect them manually. There are no additional (or hidden) setup fees and since FatCow promised an instant activation, your newly created website should appear swiftly.

Dashboard

FatCow offers setup scripts for WordPress in case you want to build your site using the popular CMS (Image credit: WordPress)

FatCow doesn’t offer industry-standard cPanel (which is usually not good news), but a custom control panel which is (fortunately) rather user-friendly, although a bit dated. Alternatively, they offer a point-and-click website builder with a variety of customizable templates and themes, as well as setup scripts for WordPress. As FTP access is a standard offer, more experienced users can build their websites without restrictions and immediately.

Performance

We used GTmetrix to test the response time and uptime of our FatCow site (Image credit: GTmetrix)

Speed and experience

Besides promising “more speed” with VPS and dedicated hosting products, FatCow doesn’t make more explicit promises. Needless to say, we had to check the speed performance of FatCow’s main website for ourselves before jumping to conclusion. After performing a speed test provided by GTmetrix we got our results, though not what we had hoped for. The time it took to completely load the page was alright (3.8 seconds compared to the average result of 8.1), but the process needed a total of 145 requests, which is a good deal more than the average of 89. In addition, most of the core metrics were average or below-average which resulted in a rather low grade for the overall performance, an E (56%).

Since FatCow doesn’t offer an uptime guarantee, we weren’t expecting much and, unfortunately, were right to do so. After performing an uptime test by UptimeRobot on FatCow’s main website for two weeks, we got a result of 99.64% uptime, which is unacceptable for today’s standard. There were four separate instances of downtime (with the shortest lasting for 4 minutes and the longest for 1 hour and 16 minutes) which is quite a number considering the test ran for two weeks only. 

Support

FatCow's searchable knowledgebase can help you find answers to common hosting problems on your own (Image credit: FatCow)

Support

If you find yourself in need of assistance, choosing “Help” on the header of FatCow’s website will provide a few alternatives. As for self-help options, there are “Knowledge Base” and “User Guides”, but picking either of them will lead you to the same page, which is a rather standard knowledgebase. Users can browse it using the search box or selecting one of the available categories (Account, Database, Domains and so on). Among them, we were pleasantly surprised with a “Video Tutorials” category, at least until we picked it out and once again confirmed that appearance can be deceiving.

In all fairness, the guides were thorough and easy-to-follow, but some of them had video tutorials and others didn’t, and we are referring to those which belong to the “Video Tutorials” category. However, since the knowledgebase is guide-packed and comprehensive, we will not take this as a significant issue.

Alternately, you can get in touch with FatCow’s support team via toll-free telephone and live chat, which are available 24/7.

The competition

Both HostGator and FatCow are experienced web hosting providers offering fairly-priced entry-level plans and a user-friendly approach, geared towards newcomers. The two of them offer a free domain registration, many unlimited features (disk space, e-mails, and bandwidth) and an easy-to-use website builder. However, Hostgator’s plans come with a familiar industry-standard cPanel, while FatCow uses a custom control panel aimed at newbies, so this might be a decisive point for many.

Another popular hosting option for beginners and experts alike is Bluehost. While both Bluehost and FatCow provide plenty of attractive features, Bluehost’s hosting solution comes at a lower cost, with a SSL certificate and (we can’t emphasize this enough) with “state-of-the-art” hardware and an uptime guarantee of 99.98%.

The green-energy powers both Krystal Hosting and FatCow, although the latter boasts less about it. Although Krystal Hosting seems more polished overall, both are quite competent hosts and provide a good quality-price ratio. However, when performance is concerned, Krystal Hosting has a faster server and provides its users with a 99.99% uptime guarantee.

Although FatCow’s chubby cow is a lovely sight, Hostens’s little hamster is as cute as a cupcake and definitely wins by the criterion of mascot adorability. However, when it comes to what these can offer from hosting-related services, both are quite user-oriented, accessible hosts for new users and provide a 30-days money-back guarantee. Yet, FatCow’s guarantee is valid for credit card payments only, while with Hostens it is valid for PayPal as well.

Final verdict

When compared to some of the big names in the business, FatCow’s hosting solution may seem a bit simplistic, especially when taking into account its mediocre performance. At the same time, they are veterans in their field, dedicated to protecting the environment and offer an exceptionally beginner-friendly approach. With all things considered, if you have simple needs and don’t mind short-term pricing, give FatCow a chance. If not, you might want to consider finding a suitable alternative in hosts like Hostgator, Hostinger or Bluehost.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra UAE review

It's not very often that you come across a phone that is difficult to find faults with. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is that phone. After last year's S20 Ultra failed to click, Samsung has made sure that their newest flagship sets the bar for Android phones of 2021. 

This is Samsung’s vision of smartphone excess for 2021: five cameras, a 108MP sensor, two telephoto lenses, 100x zoom, 40MP selfies, 5G, all-day battery life, and up to 16GB of RAM – all packed into an Android phone with a 6.8-inch 120Hz Quad HD display that supports an S Pen and an in-screen fingerprint sensor that is larger and faster than the one on last year’s phone.

It’s the first new smartphone we’ve tested in 2021, along with the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus, and is not making it easy for competing phones that will follow. Samsung has retooled its main camera with lasers – yes, lasers – to remedy the autofocus issues on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, and also upgraded the specs to keep up with the demands of processing large 108MP photos, 40MP selfies, and 8K video without as much as a hiccup.

Photos look sharp, dynamic range is impressive, and the new ‘tripod lock’ feature steadies the 30x and 100x zoom levels on subjects to prevent the viewfinder image from jumping around. It’s easier to pull off the ‘Space Zoom’ now, although punching in 100x is limited to being a neat party trick due to grainy images, while 30x is passable in the right light. 

Photography and speed are only two-thirds of the story here. This is a tale of design beauty and the performance beast, with a gently curved edge-to-edge display, smaller rear camera bump and mesmerizing matte Phantom Black color option that’s like a black hole sucking in your gaze (other colors are available). It’s hard to look away. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s best-looking phone ever.

Samsung has increased the priced slightly over last year's S20 Ultra 5G, however, you are also getting double the storage. At AED 4,899 the S21 Ultra is expensive, but  slightly cheaper than the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 256GB capacity. Samsung also gives you a bit more: a larger, brighter and more capable curved screen, 10x optical camera zoom (vs 2.5x on the iPhone), and stylus support, something Apple has yet to offer on any iPhone. 

Depending on what’s important to you, then, Samsung may be offering more value for your money. What’s the catch? We started out saying that the S21 Ultra is Samsung’s vision of excess, but you’ll have to let go of what doesn’t fit into the company’s roadmap. Gone is the microSD card slot for expandable storage, say goodbye to MST (that was being able to pay with Samsung Pay even if a credit card machine doesn't have NFC), and you won’t find a charger inside of the box; like Apple, Samsung cites e-waste as the reason the power brick isn’t included.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra release date is Friday, January 29, with preorders still available in the UAE. The launch event was January 14, meaning that both the official announcement and the release date are a month earlier than we’re used to for the company’s flagship smartphone. Samsung is bucking trends in 2021. 

The Galaxy S21 Ultra price is slightly higher than the S20 Ultra at launch but you get double the capacity. It starts at AED 4,899 for a version with 256GB of internal storage and 12GB of RAM. 

Keep in mind that there’s no microSD card slot for expandable storage, so if you’re keen on taking lots of 4K or 8K video, you may want to look into the 512GB storage sizes which also bumps up the RAM to 16GB. That version costs AED 5,399.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

The two main colors of the Galaxy S21 Ultra (Image credit: Future)

Design

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is one gorgeous-looking smartphone – so much so that we didn’t bother to put a case on it during testing. Risky, yes, but the finish of our review device – a matte Phantom Black with few seams – helped minimize the camera bump and fingerprints smudges.

In addition to the deep, Vantablack-like Phantom Black color, there’s also a Phantom Silver color on sale everywhere, while Samsung’s own online store offers an additional three options: Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy and Phantom Brown. Whatever color you choose, the matte finish of each is a significant improvement over last year’s S20 series, which had a reflective sheen that looked a little plasticky and cheap.

Both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and S21 Plus have a smooth Gorilla Glass back (while the Galaxy S21 is stuck with a polycarbonate – (read: plastic) that feels less smooth to the touch. Unless you were to compare them side by side, plenty of average consumers won’t be able to tell the difference. At 227 grams, the phone is a bit on the heavier side.

We’ve been finding the S21 Ultra to be big where it needs to be, while minimizing everything you don’t want to see. For example, its large display stretches the hand at 6.8 inches, yet the curved edge-to-edge screen means that bezel is almost non-existent, and the 40MP front camera hides behind a tiny punch-hole that’s easy to ignore after a few minutes.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

Screen

The Galaxy S21 Ultra screen is Samsung’s first that’s capable (among smartphones) of running at a smooth 120Hz refresh rate while in a pixel-packing Quad HD resolution. The S20 and Note 20 series forced you to choose between 120Hz/60Hz and Quad HD/Full HD, while the new S21 and S21 Plus are stuck at Full HD+, with 120Hz enabled by default.

The long-awaited verdict? It’s the best of both world but you won’t see much of a difference between 1080p and Quad HD on a display of this size. The need for resolutions higher than Full HD among smartphones was being driven by VR headsets – you could see a ‘screen door effect’ at lower resolutions when the pixels were so close to your face. But Samsung, along with the entire mobile industry, seems to have cooled its VR initiatives.

This is still Samsung’s best screen, but for many other reasons. We found the 6.8-inch body to be easier to grasp than the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, and that’s in large part thanks to the curved display and narrowness of the device. The curved edges are subtle here, and not quite as pronounced as on past Samsung devices, and that means fewer errant presses.

We also tested the screen brightness of the Galaxy S20 Ultra outdoors, and it automatically amps up to a super-bright 1,500 nits when necessary. Other phones with AMOLED screens, including the S21 and S21 Plus, max out at 1,200 nits, and every little bit helps in direct sunlight.

Samsung’s redesigned in-screen fingerprint sensor is 37% larger and we found it was more forgiving of our often wayward thumb placement. That’s a relief given the fact that face unlock is useless at a time when we’re often hidden behind a mask.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

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S Pen compatibility

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s first non-Note phone that’s compatible with its S Pen stylus, and it’s a trend we like seeing. However, things work a bit differently here: there’s no S Pen included with the phone, and there’s no way to embed it into the body of the phone.

There’s a folio case that holds a special S Pen – one that’s larger and more comfortable to hold than the one that tucks inside of the body of Galaxy Note phones. This means you’ll want a Galaxy S21 Ultra case for more than protection. Exactly what you’re supposed to do with the stylus without buying this folio case is currently unclear, but it neatly slots into the inner spine of the case and feels secure there.

We were able to jot down quick notes and bring up all of the Air Command options, which include a variety of features you can use without touching the phone’s screen. We appreciate the fact the S Pen is larger, so easier to grasp than the toothpick-sized Note S Pen, and the fact that Samsung’s using Wacom screen tech, so you can use any stylus with your phone. 

Missing from the new S Pen we tested ahead of launch were the Bluetooth shortcuts for triggering the camera app and making off-screen notes, which you’re able do on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. We’re hoping these will arrive with an even more special S Pen Pro model that’s launching later this year, and which was first announced during the Galaxy Unpacked event at which the S21 phones were unveiled.

Even with all of the hype around the appearance of an S Pen on an S phone, we fully expect to see the Note 21 Ultra in the next six to seven months (six if it comes early and seven if Samsung sticks to its usual August time frame). There's still a demand for that phone – and for being able to embed the stylus inside the handset.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

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Camera

Ready for your extreme close-up? The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, with its five cameras and 100x zoom range, impress this time around, even if grainy ‘Space Zoom’ photos continue to not meet our quality threshold for readily posting to our Instagram accounts.

It’s the 3x, 10x and, occasionally in well-lit conditions, 30x photo zooms that nail the shot with breathtaking clarity. What helps most at the 30x (and 100x) ranges is the new tripod lock feature, which prevents the viewfinder image from jumping around, something that could be jarring when zooming in that tightly on the S20 Ultra. After a second, the S21 Ultra camera fixes onto a subject that it outlines in yellow on the small zoomed-out corner reticle, and the shakiness is magically dialed down.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Going all the way from the unchanged ultra-wide camera at 0.5x to the digitally zoomed-in 30x with usable photos each step of the way is how Samsung stands apart from Apple and its cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro Max (capped at 2.5x optical / 12x digital), and Google’s Pixel 5 (no telephoto). No one (except Huawei) is doing zoom on a smartphone like this in 2021, and your Apple phone-owning friends will have telephoto envy.

Yes, having two telephoto cameras does seem downright ridiculous, but they offer different perspectives: 3x and 10x, all without having to go digital and hybrid in between. The zoom facility on both is optical, though Samsung’s camera software oftentimes has a mind of its own. We’ve found it can overwrite your decision and pick which camera gets used (likely based on their different apertures and the lighting in your environment). So it may take ‘zoomed-in’ photos with the main sensor and then just crop to simulate that zoom. It’s a bit unpredictable, but most of the shots turn out okay. All you have to do is press the shutter button.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera

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Year-over-year the biggest improvement is to the 108MP main camera, which made its debut in the S20 Ultra but was dogged with autofocus issues at launch. That’s been fixed in the S21 Ultra thanks to the addition of  laser-assisted phase detection autofocus, which was absent on the S20 Ultra (the Note 20 Ultra did have this). Finally, you’re going to be able to do justice to the extra detail from those 108MP shots and 40MP selfies, which makes a post-snap crop easier. Otherwise, without cropping, you won’t see a giant difference.

We noticed that the Galaxy S21 Ultra camera offers improved dynamic range in outdoor photos (see photos with a bright sky and darker buildings) over its predecessors, and Samsung now offers 12-bit raw files for greater flexibility when editing. 

All Galaxy S21 series phones now record video at 4K at 60fps from all cameras, and 8K at 24fps returns. But it’s the new Director’s View mode that caught our eye this year: you can  capture video with both the front and back cameras simultaneously. Vloggers and other content creators will relish the fact that you can capture reaction shots of themselves, which they can splice in alongside their main footage. 

Director’s View is a neat idea that you don’t get on most phones. It joins last year’s video-focused additions, like zoom-in microphones for better capturing the subject you’re zooming into, and an improved Single Take mode for recording video and taking photos at the same time.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

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Specs and performance

The Galaxy S21 series is faster for two reasons: it marks the debut of brand-new chipsets, and the software has been streamlined just a bit, with the ever-evolving OneUI 3.0 interface tied into Android 11.

At the heart of all three S21 phones is one of two speedy chipsets: either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 (US) or Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 (just about everywhere else). While we haven’t done in-depth side-by-side comparisons yet, both seem very snappy. Samsung's SoC team has finally made a chipset that won't make Exynos owners envious of the Snapdragon version.

Some people will be turned off by the fact that the S21 series doesn’t include a microSD card slot for expandable storage. The inclusion of microSD slots always made it easier for us to recommend Samsung over Apple when things were neck-and-neck, as you could go for the lower storage size and upgrade later. Not anymore.

Having said that, the base-level 256GB of internal storage with 12GB of RAM might  be enough for most. But you will need to have an idea of how much space you need in advance of buying the S21 Ultra – and that’s something that Samsung fans rarely had to think about, as microSD cards were always a nice fallback plan.

Part of the reason the S21 Ultra seems snappy is the fact that Samsung has further streamlined its software interface. With OneUI 3.0, menus now throw fewer unnecessary windows in your face before executing what you want to do. We also see Google Assistant taking up the leftmost menu instead of being forced to use Bixby Today.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Hang on to your power adapters. Neither the old USB-A nor the new USB-C chargers are included in the box, but you will get all-day battery life. (Image credit: Future)

Battery life

The Galaxy S21 Ultra battery life was solid during our normal testing, amounting to a full day and change – but we tanked the battery much more quickly when we pushed that 120Hz screen refresh rate to the max and cranked up the resolution to Quad HD.

Its 5,000mAh battery matches the Galaxy S20 Ultra capacity, and you’re going to get all-day battery life if you stick with Samsung’s default settings. The resolution is set to 1080p out of the box (most users won’t notice a big difference between Full HD and Quad HD). 

Also helping is the fact that the 120Hz refresh rate is variable. It’s technically ‘up to 120Hz’, so it won’t be so high if it doesn’t need to be, sparing your battery. Samsung’s backend software will automatically adjust between 11Hz and 120Hz, depending on your activity: reading an eBook (low) vs playing a 3D game (high).

You won’t get a charger with the Galaxy S21, and Samsung is betting that you have an old one on hand, or that you’ll buy one at a newly discounted price. Included is a USB-C-to-USB cable, but you’ll want one of the newer fast chargers for this phone in order to charge it at 25W. You can also fast wirelessly charge at up to 15W, and reverse wirelessly charge those Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro or anything that Qi-charges.

Samsung doesn’t support 45W charging on the S21 series whatsoever, something that may seem like a step backward – the Note 10 Plus and entire S20 series were compatible with this optional charger. The company told TechRadar that 25W has been optimized enough to the point that 45W matters very little, although we’d also suspect few people went out and bought the special 45W charger.

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra?

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want epic camera zooms
Samsung cameras are the most fun for us to test due to the epic shot variety. Two telephoto lenses are the big highlight with the S21 Ultra, and the 100x zoom will impress your friends, even if the standard image quality only ties the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

You need the most powerful Android
The Samsung Galaxy S21 delivers some phenomenally good performance, and if you need a smartphone that can handle multiple tasks at once in split-screen view, or when gaming, this will likely be it.

You want some S Pen features
Grab an S Pen and start jotting down notes on a Galaxy S phone? You can do that for the first time here. We’ve also gotten to use tools like translating text and previewing links, just like on a Note phone.

Don't buy it if...

You’re on a budget
We recommend the S21 Ultra over the S21 and S21 Plus simply because it has so much extra going on. But if you can’t afford it, wait a few months and this phone will drop in price.

You need lots of storage
No microSD card slot is a deal-breaker for a lot of people who have emailed us/tweeted at us/ left us comments. Most Android phones have this feature.

You want advanced stylus features
The S21 Ultra is compatible with the S Pen, but it doesn’t outright replace the Note 20 Ultra. Some features, like off-screen memo and Bluetooth shortcuts, remain exclusive to the Note 20. Avid note-takers, take note.

First reviewed: January 2021

Samsung Galaxy S21 review

Two-minute review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is an odd handset on paper, but having spent a week using it we’ve found it to be a highly capable handset that's a pleasure to use, despite a couple of specs being dropped from previous handsets, notably the Galaxy S20 from 2020.

Why does the Samsung Galaxy S21 have lesser specs than the Galaxy S20? Two reasons. The first is that Samsung wanted to drop the price of its handset – the S21 starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 compared to the Galaxy S20 5G’s $999 / £899 / AU$1,499.

The second is that the company is also putting a bigger focus on its Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – and unlike the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020, it’s a handset we’d readily recommend to those who are desperate to try the company’s latest innovations, and happy to pay for them. 

That makes the S21 a significantly less exciting Galaxy S phone than we’re used to seeing, but make no mistake: the Galaxy S21 is still a fantastic handset choice, albeit with a few tweaked specs compared to the Galaxy S20 – and that price drop is likely to attract a lot more people to the S series.

If you want a larger screen but similar specs, there's also the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus but we've yet to have that phone in for a full review on TechRadar.

Back to the S21, and the chipset is powerful, the camera software has improved over recent models, and the battery life is strong, giving you a solid day of use from a full charge, alongside effective fast-charging and wireless charging options.

Samsung has opted for a lower-spec screen than the one on the S20, with a Full HD+ 6.2-inch display, but it offers a 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth scrolling and graphics,  fantastic colors, and strong brightness levels – and we didn’t notice the lower resolution in most of our testing.

The chipset – we’ve tested the Exynos 2100 version of the phone – is also powerful, delivering some fantastic results real-world use as well as in benchmarking software.

If you already own a Samsung Galaxy S20, or if you can find that handset for a significant discount, you won’t want to opt for the Galaxy S21 – while the new phone gains in some areas it loses in others, and overall there’s not much between the two phones – certainly not enough to justify paying a couple of hundred dollars or pounds more.

Conversely, if you’re after the top-end tech that Samsung is selling this year then you’ll want to check out the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. But if you’re after a (much) cheaper alternative to that phone, that shares a lot of the same design language and features, and which works fantastically well for everyday tasks, the Galaxy S21 is just that. 

Samsung Galaxy S21 release date and price

The Samsung Galaxy S21 release date is Friday, January 29, 2021 for most of the world, including the US, UK and Australia. The phone was officially unveiled on January 14, and preorders are now live in those territories as well.

The Galaxy S21 price is remarkably lower than that of the S20 at launch, with Samsung trimming a few specs, including reducing the maximum display resolution and dropping microSD support, in order to make this possible.

The Galaxy S21 price starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249 for a version with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. There’s also a 256GB and 8GB RAM variant, and that costs $849 / £819 / AU$1,349.

Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Galaxy S20 5G price started at $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 so the new phone is quite a bit cheaper. If you want the very top-end specs, you’ll be looking for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which sports perks like a QHD+ display and expandable storage, but which comes with a much higher price tag.

It’s also worth noting that all of Samsung’s S21 phones are 5G-compatible in 2021, so you won’t be able to buy a 4G-only variant. Instead, Samsung had made its 5G-compatible smartphones more competitively priced, so you’ll be getting a future-proofed option even if you don’t intend to use next-gen connectivity in the near future.

Looking for a slightly higher spec Samsung Galaxy S21 handset? The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus starts at $999 / £949 / AU$1,549 with the Galaxy S21 Ultra taking the honor of the series' most expensive phone at $1,199 / £1,149 / AU$1,849.

Design

The design is where Samsung has made the most obviously noticeable changes over the S20 (which we crowned 2020’s best smartphone), overhauling the materials used, the colors, and the overall look of the device.

There’s a 6.2-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display on this handset, which we’ll dive into more in the display section below. This phone is the smallest member of the Galaxy S21 family, and while it may not be as trim as the iPhone 12 mini, those with smaller hands shouldn’t have too much trouble using it.

If you want a larger phone, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus comes with a larger screen and the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the largest screen of the whole series. Both of these handsets are more expensive though.

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Samsung has switched from a full glass rear on the Galaxy S20 – a design that wasn’t too exciting in the flesh – to a ‘Glasstic’ rear that comes with a matte finish and incorporates a new camera block design.

Glasstic is the company’s own name for the material, which as the name suggests is somewhere between plastic and glass. It doesn’t feel as premium as a glass rear, but the matte finish also means it doesn’t feel like cheap plastic either.

Samsung used the same material on the Galaxy Note 20, but the matte finish feels more suitable here and it’s much less shiny than the glass rear on the Galaxy S20, which means it’s less of a fingerprint magnet. The metal edges around the outside of the device add a touch of premium polish.

You’ve got four color choices at launch: Phantom Gray, Phantom White, Phantom Pink, and Phantom Violet (the shade you see pictured throughout this review) – we think Violet is the standout color here. 

The company has made the camera array on the S21 phones look different to any other on the market .Samsung is calling this its Contour Cut Camera, and it’s a divisive design to say the least – although we think it looks bold, and it’s something we’ve grown used to during our time testing the phone. The gold camera array on the Phantom Violet variant is particularly good-looking, and it feels slimmer than on the Galaxy S20, so it doesn’t jutt out from the rear of the phone so much.

Samsung Galaxy S21

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There’s very little to break up the sleek edges of the phone: the bottom edge features the SIM tray, a USB-C port and a speaker grille, while on the right side are the power button and volume rocker; however, the Bixby button found on other handsets from the company hasn’t made a return here. Instead you can launch Samsung’s assistant by long pressing the power button.

One negative for some is the switch to a completely flat screen on the Galaxy S21. Samsung has used screens that curve attractively into the body at the left and right edges for a number of generations now, but this has been dropped for the Galaxy S21.

It’s unlikely to be something you’ll notice unless you’re used to those curved edges, but it’s worth noting if you’re someone who particularly likes that design feature – and as is the case with other dropped features,  Samsung has retained the curved-edge screen for the premium S21 Ultra.

All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S21 feels like a premium device, although it’s unlikely to feel as top-end as the Samsung Galaxy S20 if you own that handset, or the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Display

The downgrade to the display is perhaps the most controversial change Samsung has made for the Galaxy S21, with the company switching to a lower-res Full HD+ screen than the Quad HD display available on 2020’s Galaxy S20.

As mentioned, Samsung has done this to help keep the price of the new phone down, and unless you’ve used a phone with a QHD resolution we don’t believe you’ll be able to easily tell the difference – we found that all the videos we watched on the S21 looked suitably high-quality on the Full HD+ panel.

If you already own a Samsung Galaxy S20, though you likely won’t be impressed by this decision, and if you’re looking for the very best Samsung screen tech then you’ll want to opt for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which keeps the QHD screen.

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Samsung Galaxy S21

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Has Samsung made the right decision here? Largely, we think, yes. It won’t be popular with everyone, but crucially it’s allowed Samsung to cut the price of its Galaxy S21 series, and it won’t be hugely detrimental to most people’s everyday experience with the phone.

The Galaxy S21 display features a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, which is on by default and works in an adaptive capacity – so if you’re playing a mobile game, for example, the screen will stick with 120Hz, while if you’re reading an audiobook it’ll reduce the refresh rate in order to save battery.

Samsung has also made significant improvements to the fingerprint scanner on the S21 phones over previous handsets. The sensor itself is 70% larger, so it’s easier to hit, and it’s notably faster too; it isn’t as quick as the physical fingerprint scanners you’ll find on other phones, but this is one of the best in-screen scanners we’ve used.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S21

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The Galaxy S21 camera hardware hasn’t changed from last year’s phone, as Samsung’s big sensor upgrade happened between the Galaxy S10 and S20 generation. This year it’s all about the software, and Samsung finding a way to slim down the camera module. 

It’s the same triple-lens rear array then: 12MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and 64MP telephoto capable of a 3x hybrid optical zoom. As on the Galaxy S20, all three of these are capable of taking some excellent photos, and the Galaxy S21 gets some software upgrades to improve things further.

If you’ve got a Galaxy S20 you’re unlikely to see any major improvement to your photography, but those coming from the Galaxy S10 and before will see big improvements.

Single Take – Samsung’s camera mode that enables you to capture a variety of photos and videos, using all three cameras, with a single press of the shutter button – is better than ever thanks to the addition of a new slow-mo option, and it remains one of the highlights of Samsung phones.

For example, if you’re taking photos of unpredictable pets or fast-moving children you’re likely to find that Single Take maximizes your chances of getting some usable shots and/or clips.

The telephoto camera here is impressive too, offering 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom. The results aren’t going to compare to what you’ll get from the two telephoto cameras on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but this is still a fun feature to play around with. 

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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

A standard image using the rear camera (Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

3x optical zoom on the Samsung Galaxy S21 (Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

10x zoom on the Samsung Galaxy S21 (Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

30x zoom on the Samsung Galaxy S21 (Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

A shot take with the ultra-wide camera on the Samsung Galaxy S21 (Image credit: TechRadar)

We found photos of far away objects taken at 10x and below were of decent quality and perfectly usable. Anything higher than that becomes very grainy, and the quality deteriorates quickly.

The 10MP selfie camera on the front of the phone is less headline-grabbing, but it proved capable enough during our testing. With the world increasingly staying in touch via video calls in this era of lockdowns, you’ll find this camera is up to the task, and we found it gave us some great selfie results too.

Samsung Galaxy S21

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Another new feature for the Galaxy S21 is a Director’s View mode, which enables you to shoot with the front and rear cameras at the same time. The idea here is vloggers and other content creators can capture reaction shots of themselves, which they can splice in alongside their main footage.

We found the feature to work well, and it’s similar to the option we’ve seen on HMD Global’s Nokia phones in recent years. We’re not sure how many people other than vloggers will actually use this feature, but it’s another fun upgrade that encourages you to experiment.

For video, you’ve got the option of 8K at 24 frames per second, which offers maximum quality and detail, but which we found to be a touch too cropped for our liking. More usefully there’s also 4K at 30 and 60 frames per second, as well as Full HD at 30, 60 and 240fps.

Camera samples

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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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Samsung Galaxy S21 camera samples

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Specs and performance

The Galaxy S21 phones are the first devices to use the latest generation of chipsets: either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 (US) or Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 (just about everywhere else).

We’ve only had the chance to test the Exynos 2100 version of the S21, and it seems like a major improvement over previous generations of Samsung’s chipset. In the past, the Exynos variant tended to lag behind the Qualcomm-powered phones in some areas but this year the gap seems to have narrowed.

In Geekbench 5, the Samsung Galaxy S21 returned a multi-core score of 3367. That's notably better than the Galaxy S20 (the one featuring the Exynos 990 chipset) that returned a score of 2699.

Benchmarking doesn't show everything, but we've found everyday tasks on the phone have been faster than previously with the handset more than capable at handling gaming, multi-tasking and having multiple apps open in split-screen view too.

We’ve yet to test the Samsung Galaxy S21 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset inside, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra performed well with this chipset inside so we’d expect similar results on that S21 handset.

Overall, the Exynos 2100 variant of the handset is a step above what we've seen from Samsung previously and this offers one of the best experiences when it comes to performance on an Android phone right now. We hope to have a full verdict on the Qualcomm chipset toting version in the near future.

Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: TechRadar)

In the S21 both chips are paired with 8GB of RAM – if you want more than that on a new Samsung device, you’ll want to opt for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which comes with either 12GB or 16GB.

Along with that 8GB of RAM you’ve got the choice of either 128GB or 256GB of storage. The big news here is that Samsung has dropped microSD support from the S21, so you can’t expand on the built-in storage.

The company is instead just offering internal storage, and again this seems to be a cost-saving measure from Samsung, but it’s likely to disappoint anyone who wants the most affordable handset but needs a lot of storage.

The S21 runs Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI 3.0 skin, which is among our favorite software interfaces. Just know that it may be nearly a year before you see Android 12 on this phone, even if Google releases the update in August, as Samsung can be a little slow to roll out new versions of Android.

Samsung has fully embraced 5G in 2021 too, and all variants of the Galaxy S21 are 5G-compatible. Even if you’re not in a 5G-ready area, it essentially means you’re futureproofed ready for when 5G connectivity is more widely available.

Battery life

Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S21 is solid, although it’s not a game-changing improvement over the S20, as the company may have led some to believe with its new Exynos 2100 chipset.

We generally found that the phone would comfortably last a full day, but on one occasion, when we were making more use of the phone’s GPS signal and other power-hungry features we found the device ran out of steam by around 10pm.

Recharging the S21 is easy, using the company’s 25W fast-charging tech via the phone’s USB-C port. It’s also compatible with Qi wireless charging, and we found that worked well during our testing.

Reverse wireless charging is also supported, so you can use your phone’s power to top up devices such as Qi-compatible wireless headphones, but we found that to be slow, and it’s a feature you’d likely only want to use in emergencies.

One thing missing this year is compatibility with Samsung’s 45W chargers that worked with the S20 series. Samsung told TechRadar that it’s made optimizations to the 25W charging capabilities of its new phones, so 45W charging wasn’t that significant a benefit.

The other thing to note here is that the Galaxy S21 doesn’t come with a charger in the box. Samsung has followed in Apple’s footsteps by not bundling a charger with its new phones as it seeks to cut down on e-waste.

The thinking is that, if you’re buying a new Samsung phone, you likely already have a compatible USB-C charger that will work just fine. If you do need a charger you’ll have to buy one, but while Samsung has dropped the price of its charger to $19 in the US, in other markets they’re still pretty expensive, so it’s something to be aware of.

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy S21?

Samsung Galaxy S21

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if…

You want a smaller Samsung phone

The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t the smallest premium phone on the market – that honor likely goes to the iPhone 12 mini – but it’s a good choice for anyone who doesn’t want a fantastically large smartphone in their pocket. It’s 6.2-inch screen may look large on paper, but the phone itself is notably smaller than a lot of its Android competition.

You need one of the most powerful Android phones

The Galaxy S21 offers some phenomenally good performance, and if you need a smartphone that can handle multiple tasks at once in split-screen view or when gaming this will likely be it.

If you’ve got a much older phone

If you have the Galaxy S20 then the S21 isn’t an essential upgrade, as it doesn’t represent a clear improvement in terms of specs and features, but if you have the S10 or below you’re more likely to find the S21 a worthwhile upgrade. It’s also suitable for those who have older phones from other manufacturers and want to try a Samsung device. 

Don’t buy it if…

You own a Samsung Galaxy S20

As we say above, if you already own the Galaxy S20, there’s little reason to upgrade to this handset, as it doesn’t represent a clear improvement in terms of specs and features. Instead, you'll want to look toward the Galaxy S21 Ultra or perhaps wait for whatever Samsung does next.

You need lots of storage

The Samsung Galaxy S21 is hamstrung by its relatively meagre built-in storage and lack of microSD support for expanding on that. If you need lots of space on your smartphone for games, music and video, you’re better off going for almost any other top Android phone, as most will let you slot in a microSD card.

You want the best of the best

The Samsung Galaxy S21 isn’t the star of the Galaxy S21 family – if you’re after the very best from the company in 2021 you’ll want to look at the Galaxy S21 Ultra – if your budget can stretch to its considerable price tag.

First reviewed: January 2021 

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