Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S10: Is the upgrade worth it?

We pit the two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S10 against the brand-new Galaxy S21 to see which one offers the best bang for buck in 2021.
  • Woolworths Mobile

    Galaxy S21 128GB

    More info
    4 out of 5 overall
    18GB/mth, unlimited calls/text, data rollover
    From $54.44/mth (36mth)
  • Optus Mobile

    Galaxy S10 5G 128GB

    More info
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    10GB/mth, unlimited calls/text
    From $63.96/mth (36mth)
  • Telstra

    Galaxy S21 128GB

    More info
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    40GB/mth, unlimited calls/text
    From $107.00/mth (24mth)
  • Vodafone

    Galaxy S21 128GB

    More info
    4 out of 5 overall
    50GB/mth, unlimited calls/text
    From $69.69/mth (36mth)
  • numobile (Refurb)

    Galaxy S10 128GB

    More info
    3 out of 5 overall
    3GB/mth, unlimited calls/text
    From $41.00/mth (24mth)

Our verdict

If you’re after an affordable handset that still offers great value years after its initial release, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is a solid choice, which even boasts a higher-resolution screen than the S21. Still, the extra investment in a Galaxy S21 gets you superior battery life, beefier performance, and a better rear camera.

Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S10

Given the kind of year that 2020 was, the March 2019 release date of the then-new Samsung Galaxy S10 range feels like a long time ago. Instead of continuing the incremental numbering trend in 2020, Samsung opted to jump from S10 to S20, but 2021 is all about the Samsung Galaxy S21.

Considering you can still buy phones plans with the still-reliable S9 range from 2018, it’s still absolutely possible to buy a new S10 handset outright or pay it off over time via Postpaid plan. As to whether you should in 2021 in light of the launch of the 2021, well, read on for the full breakdown.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Price

Testament to their quality, Samsung Galaxy S10 handsets have held their value over the last couple of years. While the starting cost for the S21 is $1,499, these days you can expect to pay around $859 for the S10 128GB handset if you shop around, and roughly $899 for the 256GB version of the S10 5G smartphone.

That’s a saving of at least $600 if you opt for the S10 over the S21, which means budget-conscious purchasers should absolutely go for the older-model Galaxy phone.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10

Galaxy S10From $859-$959
Galaxy S10 PlusFrom $869--
Galaxy S10 5G-$799-
Galaxy S21$1,249$1,349-
Galaxy S21 Plus$1,549$1,649-
Galaxy S21 Ultra$1,849$1,949$2,149

Samsung Galaxy S21 plans

If you’ve already decided that the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the handset for you, check out the daily updating list of popular postpaid plans below to get your hands on the 128GB variant.

Samsung Galaxy S10 plans

The core Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB handset is only available from Numobile. You can see the three Numobile plans you can bundle it with below.

Alternatively, if you’re after the S10 5G 256GB upgrade, Optus is the only provider currently offering the handset. Check out five of its most popular plans below with 24-month handset repayment terms.

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Specs

Below is a specs comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the S10, but you can scroll past it to the category breakdowns if you like.

SpecsGalaxy S21Galaxy S10
Price (RRP)From $1,249From $859
Display6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
6.1-inch Infinity-O Display Super AMOLED
Resolution1080 x 24003040 × 1440
Pixels-per-inch (ppi)~421~550
Refresh rate (max)120Hz60Hz
Max brightness (nits)1300940
Battery capacity4,000mAh3,400mAh
ChargingFast Charging 25W
USB Power Delivery 3.0
15W Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging
4.5W Reverse wireless charging
Super Fast Charging
Fast Wireless charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
Front (selfie) camera10MP
Dual video call
Auto HDR
4K up to 60fps
1080p @ 30fps
Rear camerasUltra-wide camera (12MP, 120°, F2.2)
Wide-angle camera (Dual Pixel 12MP, F1.8)
Telephoto camera (64MP, F2.0)
Ultra-wide camera (16MP, Aperture: F2.2)
Wide-angle camera (12MP Dual Pixel AF, OIS, Aperture: F1.5-2.4)
Telephoto camera (12MP, Aperture: F2.4)
Camera featuresLED flash
Auto HDR
Scene Optimiser
2x optical zoom
Optical Image Stablisation
Video recording8K @ 30fps
4K up to 60fps
1080p up to 120fps
720 @ 960fps
Stereo sound rec.
4K up to 60fps
1080p up to 240fps
Dolby Vision HDR
Stereo sound rec.
Internal storage128GB
Expandable storageNoMicroSD (up to 512GB)
ProcessorExynos 2100Exynos 9820
Operating SystemAndroid 11
One UI 3.1
Android 10
One UI 3.0
WirelessWiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.1
WiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
Water and dust resistanceIP68 (up to 1.5m for 30 min)IP68 (up to 1.5m for 30 min)

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Camera

One of the more prominent interests for smartphone purchasers over the last handful of years, the camera differences between the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S21 aren’t as pronounced as you might expect. For starters, it’s a dead heat on the selfie-camera front with both boasting identical offerings. On the back of the handsets, though, the S10 ekes out an advantage with a 16MP ultra-wide camera with 123-degree breadth, compared to the S21’s 12MP equivalent with 120-degree width.

Still, while both phones sport a triple camera configuration on the handset backside, the S21 has more than fives times the resolution with its 64MP telephoto camera versus the S10’s 12MP offering.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Design

There was a time when Samsung’s 2.5D glass was a novelty: the front-facing glass that curves around the edges of the handset to effectively render it bezel-less. That trend is set to revert back to the flat smartphone faces of old with the Samsung Galaxy S21. Which look you prefer will ultimately be determined by personal preference.

Speaking of personal preferences, the S21 has four colour choices whereas the S10 only has three. Because the S10 has a slightly smaller screen (more on that in the section below), it’s also slightly slimmer, but not so much so that it should make you pick it over the S21.


Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Display

A newer handset means a better display, right? Not exactly. The Samsung Galaxy S21 boasts a 6.2-inch AMOLED 2X screen, which is larger, more colourful and brighter (1300 nits vs 940) than the S21’s screen. The S21 screen also has a max refresh rate of 120Hz, whereas the S10’s screen maxes out at 60Hz.

On the flip side, the S10 has a noticeably better screen resolution: 1440×3040 compared to the S21’s 1080×2400. Outside of colours and brightness, expect a better quality image out of the S10 versus the S21, more so because of the slightly smaller screen housing the higher resolution. That said, the higher resolution on the S10 also means increased battery drain.


Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Performance

Outside of incremental camera improvements, the big reason to look at the latest handset over an older model is more powerful innards. While both the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S21 have 8GB of RAM, the S21’s latest-model Exynos 2100 processor has noticeable gains over the S10’s Exynos 9820 CPU.

For everyday use, that translates to gains of around 33 percent, for high-performance applications like gaming expect around a 60 percent boost, and there’s around 14 percent more efficient battery consumption.

You have to pay more for a 5G upgrade for the S10, whereas 5G network support is a default feature for the entire S21 range, including the base model. The S21 also has the latest Bluetooth 5.1 protocol compared to the Bluetooth 5.0 inside the S10 range. One place where the S10 does win, though, is in storage. Both the S21 and S10 have 128GB base models, but while the S21 maxes out at a 256GB variant, the S10 with beefier storage has 512GB, plus the S10 range supports MicroSD cards (up to 512GB for the S10).

Despite this, 128GB is plenty of storage for most smartphone users and the S21 ticks all the other right boxes when it comes to performance.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Battery life

The combination of a more energy-efficient processor and a larger battery life inside the Samsung Galaxy S21 (4,000mAh vs the S10’s 3,400mAh) means that the S21 is the clear on-paper winner of this category. Couple that with the S21’s lower screen resolution and the option to drop the refresh rate, and you can safely expect more hours of use out of the S21 over the S10. The only disclaimer here is the S21 is rumoured to ship without a wall charger, which will cost extra if you don’t want to charge via PCs and other USB charging devices.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S10: Which should I buy?

If you’re in the market for a new phone, the only reason you should consider a Samsung Galaxy S10 in 2021 is because you’re looking to save money. Granted, you’ll still get a solid Samsung smartphone while saving hundreds of dollars. That said, if you’re happy to invest where it matters – performance, battery and a better rear camera stack – the S21 is a great choice.

Now that you know, here are your next steps.

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