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Samsung Galaxy S24 vs Galaxy S21: Is it time to upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S21 (left) and Samsung Galaxy S24 Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Your Samsung Galaxy S21 recently celebrated its third birthday. To celebrate this milestone, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model, such as the new Samsung Galaxy S24. With a newer processor, improved display, longer battery life, and other upgrades, this can look like a really tempting deal.

But is the Galaxy S24 really worth the $800 asking price if you still own a Galaxy S21? Here’s everything you need to know before you decide.

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21: Specs

Galaxy S24 Galaxy S21
Weight 5.93 ounces (168.0 g) 6.03 ounces (171.0 g)
Dimensions 5.79 x 2.78 x 0.30 inches (147 x 70.6 x 7.6 mm) 5.97 x 2.80 x 0.31 inches (151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm)
Screen size, specifications 6.2-inch 2X Dynamic AMOLED

Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2)

6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex Display

Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass Victus)

Screen resolution 2340 x 1080 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio, 416 ppi

120Hz refresh rate

Maximum brightness of 2,600 nits

2400 x 1080 pixels, 20:9 ratio, 424 ppi

120Hz refresh rate

Maximum brightness of 1,300 nits

Operating system Android 14 Comes with Android 11, upgradeable to Android 14
Storage 128 GB or 256 GB 128 GB or 256 GB
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 (4nm) Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (5nm)
Camera 50MP main, ƒ/1.8 aperture, OIS
12 MP ultra-wide, ƒ/2.2 aperture
10MP telephoto lens, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 3x optical zoom
12 MP ƒ/2.2 front aperture

12MP main, ƒ/1.8 aperture, OIS
12 MP ultra-wide, ƒ/2.2 aperture
64MP telephoto lens, ƒ/2.0 aperture, 1.1x optical zoom, 3x hybrid zoom
10MP front, ƒ/2.2 aperture

Video Up to 8K at 30 frames per second (fps)

4K at 60fps

FHD at 120fps

960 fps for slow motion

Up to 8K at 24fps

4K at 30fps or 60fps

1080p at 30fps, 60fps or 240fps

Galaxy AI Yes No
Authentication Ultrasonic fingerprint on screen Ultrasonic fingerprint on screen
Resistance Water, dust; IP68 Water, dust; IP68


25W wired charging

15W wireless charging

4.5W reverse wireless charging

25W wired charging

15W wireless charging

4.5W reverse wireless charging

SIM ports 1 2
Network support 5G (sub-6, mmWave) 5G (sub-6)
Colors Onyx black, marble gray, cobalt purple, amber yellow, jade green, sandstone orange, sapphire blue. Phantom pink, purple, gray, white
Price From $800 From $800 (original)

Galaxy S24 vs S21: design and display

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

When you compare the Galaxy S21 to the Galaxy S24 from a design perspective, you may notice some differences. First, the S24 model doesn’t have as defined a camera bump as the S21. The S24’s camera sensors are placed individually on the back of the phone, and while they’re not completely aligned, their appearance is much simpler. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the S21 has a plastic back and an aluminum frame, while the S24 has a glass back, giving it a more premium feel and better grip.

Both phones feature a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. However, the older Galaxy S21 uses Gorilla Glass Victus, while the new Galaxy S24 is equipped with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2. The main difference between the two versions of Victus is that the newer one has improved drop performance. Corning claims that Victus 2 glass can withstand drops of up to two meters, which is a significant improvement over the first Victus version. This means the S24 is less likely to suffer from cracks or scratches if accidentally dropped or impacted.

Finally, while the S24 and S21 both have refresh rates of up to 120Hz for smooth scrolling, only the S24 can go down to 1Hz. In comparison, the S21’s refresh rate only reaches ‘a minimum of 48Hz. You might not notice it in everyday use, but it means the S24’s screen is much more efficient and results in better battery life (more on that below) .

Galaxy S24 vs S21: performance and battery

Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S21 was released with two different processor variants depending on the region. If purchased in North America, Europe, or China, it includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor. The processor has an octa-core with one Kryo 680 Prime core at 2.84 GHz, three Kryo 680 cores at 2.42 GHz and four Kryo 680 cores at 1.80 GHz. It is paired with the Adreno GPU and the exact model number is not specified in the text.

However, in other regions, the S21 comes with Samsung’s Exynos 2100 processor, which is also an octa-core processor. It has one Cortex-X1 core at 2.9 GHz, three Cortex-A78 cores at 2.80 GHz, and four Cortex-A55 cores at 2.2 GHz. It is associated with the Mali-G78 MP14 GPU.

The new Galaxy S24 smartphone also has different processors, depending on the location. If you live in North America, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip for Galaxy – a modified version of the standard Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. The processor includes an octa-core or deca-core, depending on region, with core speeds ranging from 1.95 GHz to 3.39 GHz, and it is paired with the Adreno GPU. In other areas, the S24 comes with an internal Exynos 2400 processor.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

When upgrading from the S21 to the S24, you’ll almost certainly experience smoother and faster performance, depending on your usage. The Galaxy S24 is a performance beast, handling apps and games without any issues. The S21 is still a capable phone in 2024, but you’ll surely notice an improvement in speed if you upgrade.

It’s worth noting that Samsung hasn’t made any changes to the battery between the S21 and S24 models; both have a 4,000 mAh battery. Our review of the S21 found its battery life to be “just average,” but it should be enough to get you through a full day. However, it is essential to keep in mind that over time the battery deteriorates, resulting in a shorter lifespan.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S24 was found to have excellent battery life, easily lasting more than a full day per charge. Although the battery capacities are the same, the newer and more efficient chipset allows it to continue working longer between charges.

Galaxy S24 vs. S21: cameras

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

When it comes to smartphone technology, camera systems are one of the areas where manufacturers typically make constant improvements. So it’s no surprise that you’ll find some nice improvements between the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S24 models.

The Galaxy S24 has a 50-megapixel main camera, a 12 MP ultra-wide camera, and a 10 MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, which is a significant improvement over the Galaxy S21. Additionally, the front camera of the S24 has a resolution of 12MP.

On the other hand, the older Galaxy S21 relies on a 12 MP main camera, a 64 MP telephoto lens with 1.1x optical zoom, a 12 MP ultra-wide camera and a 10 MP front camera. MP. These specifications are still decent, but they are insufficient compared to the capabilities of the new S24 model. In addition to newer camera hardware, Samsung has improved its image processing on the Galaxy S24, delivering more natural and realistic colors than previous generations.

Galaxy S24 vs. S21: Galaxy AI

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S24 series stands out with its new Galaxy AI features. Of these, the Circle to Search feature is probably the most popular. It allows you to search by simply circling the images on the screen. Live Translate is also promising, offering real-time translations and transcriptions when you’re speaking on the phone with someone in a different language.

With Notes Assist, your S24 can summarize text into clear, easy-to-read highlights. Additionally, the generative editing feature enables powerful photo editing tricks, allowing you to move subjects in your photos, remove unwanted objects, and much more.

Although Galaxy AI features are coming to the Galaxy S23 series soon, they are not head to the Galaxy S21. If you want a phone with AI superpowers, your Galaxy S21 won’t cut it.

Galaxy S24 vs S21: price and availability

Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

In the three years between the release of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S24, Samsung has not increased the prices of its smartphones. Therefore, the S24 starts at $800, just like the S21.

The Galaxy S24 is available in four colors: Onyx Black, Marble Gray, Cobalt Purple, and Amber Yellow. Additionally, Samsung’s website offers three exclusive colors: Jade Green, Sapphire Blue, and Sandstone Orange. It is available with 128GB or 256GB of storage and is available for purchase now.

Galaxy S24 vs S21: Should You Upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S21 (left) and Samsung Galaxy S24 Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

When your smartphone reaches three years old, it’s usually a good idea to start thinking about upgrading to the latest model. If you’re considering upgrading from the Galaxy S21 to the all-new Galaxy S24, several improvements to the newer model stand out. The Galaxy S24 has better internals and improved cameras, and it is equipped with Galaxy AI. Additionally, Samsung announced that the S24 will receive software updates for up to seven years. This guarantees you updates until January 2030. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 is promised another year of updates before its four-year update warranty ends.

If you’re still not sure whether you want to upgrade, there are two final things to consider. First, the value of your Galaxy S21 phone will continue to depreciate, so you’ll pay more to upgrade later. Second, the Galaxy S24 costs $800, the same price you probably paid for your S21. With the trend in inflation in recent years, you would spend less this time. Plus, with plenty of trade-in offers and other promotions available on Samsung.com, your carrier, and other retailers, you can almost certainly upgrade your Galaxy S21 to a Galaxy S24 without paying full price.

In other words, yes, now is a good time to upgrade.

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