Being the middle child is a tough act. You do not have the seniority and the “I have seen more and am the strongest” of the eldest and the “awww just a kid” cuteness of the youngest. You are kind of stuck in the middle with neither a lot of the first nor a lot of the third. Of course, that can cut both ways – it can make you a little of this and a little of that…

Or it can make you the perfect blend of the best of both.

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It is this blend that the Galaxy S21+ is trying to strike. No, it does not have the sort of hardware muscle that the “bro” of the series, the S21 Ultra has, and nor does it have the sort of relatively compact form factor (and relatively smaller price tag too) of the S21. But it tries to hit the middle ground between the two.

It has got the looks!

And judging by our initial impressions (we have had the device for barely a day so far), the S21+ has a very good go at this difficult goal. We got the Phantom Violet variant of the device and while we are still not convinced about the camera unit jutting out from the back, there is no denying that the phone itself cuts a very impressive figure. It is not a small phone by any means at 161.5 mm, but it is slimmer and shorter than the rather outsized S21 Ultra and at 202 grams much lighter than that weighty worthy (229 grams), which makes it a little more hand-friendly.

It is, however, the color that has got our attention. Phantom Violet might be its name, but it is actually a subtle faded metallic lavender that is very distinct and easy on the eye. And it has a frosted glass-like finish that makes it glow very gently. The camera unit is metallic but smaller than on the S21 Ultra and comes in a golden shade which is similar to the color of the frame. The effect is quite striking all in all, and very premium. The front and back are Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and the device has an IP68 rating, making it capable of taking on dust and water.

Not Ultra, but still Plus display and cameras

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The S21+ sports a full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate. That’s slightly smaller than the 6.8-inch one on the Ultra and what’s more, is flat rather than slightly curved. It is also of a lower resolution than the quad HD display dazzler the Ultra served said. That said, this is a Samsung flagship display so, of course, it is brilliant and bright, with eye-popping colors (you can tone them down if you wish, though honestly, this looks magnificent as it is). As in the Ultra, the display can change refresh rates as per the content being display, although the range of variation is 48 Hz to 120 Hz as compared to the 10 Hz to the 120 Hz on the Ultra. Mind you, we do not think you will notice the lower resolution or refresh rate range unless you go looking for it.

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The cameras actually are likely to be the greatest point of distinction between the S21+ and its Ultra elder sibling. There are just three cameras on the back here – a 12-megapixel wide sensor with OIS, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, and a 64-megapixel telephoto sensor with OIS. No, there is no 100x space zoom here, but you do get 30x digital zoom and 8k video, as well as a truckload of shooting options. There is a 10-megapixel selfie snapper too. Yes, the numbers might seem modest compared to the S21 Ultra but given Samsung’s recent track record, we can expect some serious photography fireworks here.

Flagship specs…and price

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The chip powering this remains the Exynos 2100, which has been getting very good reviews (proving rumors of its demise last year were…exaggerated), allied with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB and 256 GB of (alas, non-expandable) storage, and if our experience on the S21 Ultra is any indication, this combination should be capable of handling pretty much everything you throw at it. The presence of stereo speakers means that this is going to be great for consuming multimedia and gaming – there is no 3.5 mm audio jack though. The battery is a 4800 mAh one, slightly smaller than the 5000 mAh one on the Ultra, and while there is support for wireless, reverse charging as well as fast charging (25W), there is no power adapter in the box – we just hope this is a passing phase, honestly. Connectivity-wise, you get the works – 5G, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, Wi-Fi! This is a fully-loaded flagship.

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And it commands a flagship price too at Rs 81,999. It is a zone where it has virtually no competitors in the Android zone, and beyond that, goes up against the iPhone 12 that starts at Rs 79,900. But we suspect, its biggest challenge would be to prove to the Android user base that there is still room for a premium flagship in the face of some very competitive budget flagships from OnePlus and Xiaomi.

It does not have the crazy bells and whistles of its Ultra elder brother, or the smaller price and form factor of its suffix-less younger brother.

It ain’t the all-out beauty. It ain’t the all-out beast.

It is just trying to be a lot of both.

To find out whether it succeeds or not, stay tuned.

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