GPU Performance

We’re shortly also recapping the GPU and gaming performance of the new S21 Ultras. We investigate that this new generation of SoCs isn’t quite as power efficient as we would have hoped for, meaning the increased peak performance the new chips are advertising comes at a great cost in power consumption.

Generally, any contemporary phone is only able to continuously dissipate between 4 and 5W of power through radiation and convection (42 to 50°C peak skin temperatures at 22°C ambient), and once it reaches that peak thermal envelope, it will have to throttle performance.

Basemark GPU 1.2 - Medium 1440p - Off-Screen / Blit GFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen GFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen GFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

A Stand-Still Year for GPU Performance

This year’s Galaxy S21 devices look quite unimpressive when it comes to their gaming performance.

For the Snapdragon S21, I think Samsung here can do better in terms of thermal management, as the phones currently throttle down to 3W even though the device could in theory supports more. Xiaomi’s Mi 11 with the same chip showcases much better performance (we’ll have a review of that device soon), so it’s an area of improvement which could very well be achieved with future firmware updates.

For the Exynos S21, it’s a large generational boost for Samsung, however the absolute numbers are still lagging behind Snapdragon 865 devices. This is important to note for devices such as the S21+ - the S20 FE 5G actually features a Snapdragon 865 SoC in traditional Exynos markets, and if gaming performance is an important aspect for your, that device might be the more interesting purchase.

System Performance Display Measurement
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  • theblitz707 - Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - link

    I dont get when people say android lag. My s10+ never lag in daily usage
  • probedb - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Have the S21, previously the S20+. Far prefer the S21, flat's in a case so makes no difference. Screen res, well since the S20+ required you to go FHD to use 120Hz then it makes very little difference and I use it a lot every day. Fingerprint reader is waaaaaaaaay better, like orders of magnitude better. The S20+ was awful for the delay in recognising your print, much faster on the S21. The S21 just feels faster overall as well. Perfectly happy especially since Samsung did a very good trade-in on the S20+, plus selling the free tag and phones meant it cost very little overall.
  • eastcoast_pete - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Thanks Andrei for the review. Just one fly in the "currently on sale in the US" for the S21 Ultra: yes, that's correct, but only the 128 GB storage version is on sale, the others are "out of stock". And, absent an option for expandable storage, I wouldn't buy a premium phone with less than 256 GB. Videos and photos eat storage.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    True for the 256GB, but the 512GB is also in stock at $1,179.99 which is less than the 128GB MSRP.
  • pse - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Excellent review, as usual, Andrei. I was hoping to see a few video samples as well. I've found, by looking at other online samples, that there are significant differences in low light video processing between the SD888 and the Exynos 2100, I was wondering if you found similar results in your tests. Cheers!
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Frankly speaking any results right now are outdated as Samsung is pushing out firmware updates at a fast pace with the cameras behaving differently.

    We'll revisit everything in a few weeks/months.
  • The hard truth - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    There's no talk about the video aspect of the camera in this review. Therefore this review is incomplete and poor.
  • JoeDuarte - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    Note that the actual price can be well below half of MSRP if you buy directly from Samsung and trade in an older phone.

    I'm paying $285 instead of $849 for the S21 256 GB model. I'm trading in a Galaxy S10E. I feel like the S21 is a steal for $285.

    Also, Samsung is on Rakuten with 10% off, so I'm getting $28.50 back. So now we're down to $256.50.

    I'm getting a "$100 Samsung credit" as well, but I haven't looked into that. I guess it's for the Samsung store? Maybe I can get some earbuds or something.

    I posted a screenshot of the deal/order here:

    I'm not clear on their statement math, but the bottom line is that I got the phone for just over $250. (I think they assessed sales tax on the full list price of the phone though – I'm not sure if that's normal or locale-specific.)
  • ottonis - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    First of all, many thanks for this huge test/review! Really very informative and useful information.

    However, is there test planned on the video capabilities of these phones?
  • flyingpants265 - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    no headphone jack = no buy, it's an open and obvious conspiracy to make billions in revenue from crappy wireless headphones.

    no front speakers = no buy, I don't care if most people don't notice the difference, how the hell can you purposefully make subpar products for ~14 years straight? Front stereo speakers are obviously superior, you can listen to youtube in landscape mode or use a small kickstand, you can use the phone with a gamepad, and get full sound without having to mess with bluetooth, headphones, or the crappy sidefiring speaker which isn't even close, stop making excuses.

    Also, all phones should be 100% rated for underwater use. Obviously the battery should be replaceable when it starts to degrade. Again, it doesn't benefit a manufacturer to make an indestructible phone. But it would be a great idea for any company with low market share.

    Android royally sucks. We're ~14 years in or something now, SoCs have increased in power and have 12GB RAM, but they still can't do the very basics of what I could do with Windows 98SE or 2000, namely, have multiple windows open/loaded into RAM and switch between them instantly. Press alt-tab on your computer a few times and tell me how long that takes. Compare that to phone "app switching" and phone "keyboard lag". The OS and apps are poorly written, there is no excuse for that. Removing features, garbage obfuscated slow UI. Crap.

    Of course this is just the beginning. Every single day, humanity just makes excuses for mediocrity and ends up getting screwed by billion-dollar companies. At least if I'm going to have a $1000 brainwashing/tracking device, I want it to be designed properly. And yes, I could do better on all accounts. There's a giant hole in the market for an... ACTUAL GOOD PHONE.

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