Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Samsung's latest high-end 2021

Right now, all signs point to 2021 being a turning point for Samsung mobiles . A end-of-year scoop from Reuters cites several anonymous sources claiming there won’t be a new Galaxy Note this year, and a Samsung official basically confirmed it to a Korean news agency. We’ve also seen Samsung announce plans to make their flashy new foldable phones more “accessible.” This undoubtedly fits in with previous reports that say that the resources that would have been allocated to the Note will go to those foldable phones. Times are changing.

All this means that the new Galaxy S21 Ultra is more important than usual: it could be the only premium mobile « traditional ”in the vein of Samsung for the whole of 2021. The pressure was for Samsung to do it with this phone, and for the most part, the company did just that.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Specifications

40MP f / 2.2

Android 11 with One UI 3

Specifications Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Processor Octa-core Snapdragon 888
RAM / storage 12GB + 128GB, 12GB + 256GB, 16GB + 512GB
microSD card support No
Main screen 6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen
Resolution screen 1440 x 3200 (20: 9)
Rear cameras 108MP f / 1.8 wide camera with OIS, 12MP f / 2.2 ultra-wide camera (120 ° field of view), 10MP f / 2.4 telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, 10MP f / telephoto camera 4.9 with 10x optical zoom, laser autofocus
Frontal camera
SW
Drums 5000 mAh
Charging USB-C, support fast wireless charging
Dimensions 161.5 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Weight 229g
Fingerprint sensor Yes, on screen
Waterproofing Yes, IP68 rating
NFC yes
headphones No
5G support Yes, sub-6 and mmWave

Samsung Review Galaxy S21 Ultra

Then A complete and comprehensive review of Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Settings

If you are thinking of buying a Galaxy S21 Ultra, you have some decisions to make. The first is the color: in addition to the Phantom Silver and Phantom Black options that we have already seen, Samsung has navy blue, titanium and brown available on their website. (Our review unit came in matte black, and despite all the hyperbole from Samsung’s press conference, it doesn’t look that different from any other black Android phone.)

You Next decision will be on how much storage you need , and this is really worth thinking about. Here are your options:

  • 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage: $ 1,200
  • 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage: $ 1,250
  • 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage: $ 1,380

There are two quick things worth noting: first, neither of these have storage expandable , which most people will have no problem with. Second, the starting price is $ 200 less than the equivalent model last year. If you look at the old reviews of the S20 Ultra, you won’t find a single one that doesn’t call the phone for being too expensive. Samsung clearly made the right move here, and the price cut is certainly appreciated, but let’s be clear: this is still a very expensive phone. It’s just not obscenely expensive like last year’s model was.

Design and display

Another fundamental aspect in the review of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the size and design. It’s big and robust like last year’s top-end S20, but Samsung says it benefits from the biggest redesign in Galaxy history . Aside from the weird bandage-backed Galaxy S5, the company has tended to favor generational polish over radical visual changes. Let’s face it though: Samsung is basically talking about what it did with the huge array of cameras on the Ultra.

Instead of putting the four cameras and the camera module laser autofocus in a graceless lump like it did last year, Samsung moved them a bit to the left and extended the metal frame to wrap them around. Personally, I’m a fan of the distinctly asymmetrical look, although it’s not without its issues. One of my most used accessories is a Bluetooth game controller that telescopes to “hug” a phone, and it just doesn’t fit around that hump.

Samsung’s new aesthetic signals a new Visual lineage for its high-end phones, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t change the fundamentals of the Ultra’s design. That’s a polite way of saying that the S21 Ultra is still huge. There are some minor differences in weight , a fraction of a millimeter here, a few grams there, but the S21 Ultra is still roughly the same size and shape as last year’s S20 Ultra, so it will be too big for a lot of people.

With that in mind, if you’re even thinking of buying this phone (and can find a safe way to do it), it’s definitely worth having one before splurging on it. The Ultra basically weighs as much as an iPhone 12 Pro Max, but is much easier to handle due to the tall and narrow aspect ratio of the screen.

Galaxy S21 Ultra screen
Revisión del Galaxy S21 Ultra: el último gama alta de Samsung. Aplicaciones Android

Speaking of which, $ 1,200 also gives you what has to be one of the most attractive displays that I have seen on a phone. Displays are Samsung’s thing in the same way that camera sensors are Sony’s, so none of this is really a surprise. It is one of Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED 2X panels . Colors are rich, viewing angles are great, and its peak brightness is higher than ever, think 1500 nits, so the phone never fails outdoors.

Like On the Note 20 Ultra , Samsung opted for a variable refresh rate display: it drops to 10Hz when you’re just looking at photos and increases to 120Hz when scrolling Twitter or playing compatible games . And for the first time ever, you can get this display to work at its full 3200 × 1440 resolution and 120Hz max refresh rate at the same time.

I know people who have been clamoring for this, and having that extra pixel density can come in handy at times, for example when you’re trying to see all the details in one of the camera’s 108-megapixel photos. However, you should generally leave this screen in Full HD . The difference in resolution isn’t nearly as significant as having smooth movement on the screen, and trust me, your battery will thank you.

Performance

A phone as dedicated to excess as the Ultra should offer excellent performance, and that’s just what we got from the new Snapdragon chipset 888 5nm from Qualcomm . This is the first 888 phone we’ve had a chance to test out, and unsurprisingly it sets a high bar for the rest of the smartphones of 2021 – there’s more than enough power here to keep all your apps and graphics intense games going. They work wonderfully.

That’s not a surprise when benchmarks point to notable performance gains over last year’s Snapdragon 865, which was already fast enough for most of the use cases and most people. What’s more, we’ve long passed the point where people routinely push their high-end phones to the limit, not that that’s going to stop chipmakers from pushing the limits anyway.

I mention all this because it can be easy to take this kind of performance for granted. What the benchmarks are less apt to describe is how fast the S21 Ultra feels: Between that extra computing power, that 120Hz display, and a few software tweaks, the Ultra feels like the most immediate response phone I have. I have used in a long time. (We’ll see soon if the rest of the premium phones of the year can replicate that feat.) And beyond that, being able to reproduce high-fidelity mobile ports of great PC tech demos like Bright Memory never fails to impress.

Samsung OneUI 3 running on Android 11

Performance aside , this year there are some notable changes to the Galaxy S experience. For one thing, the Ultra ships with Samsung’s OneUI 3 running on top of Android 11, which comes with enough tweaks that it probably justifies a full review on its own. Since this review is quite long as it is, I’ll only mention a couple of notable additions here.

In addition to less annoying message alerts and a cleaner approach to notifications, the S21 Ultra It also includes Google’s excellent Discover Feed instead of the lousy ad-packed Samsung Daily. You also get Samsung Free as a possible replacement for Discover, and while it’s not as immediately useful as the Google feed, it does offer niceties like free video streaming channels. It’s weird yeah, but I’d take this on a screen full of Bixby nonsense any day.

I was really looking forward to trying Samsung’s Private Share app too , which allows you to share files safely and controls r access to them. The problem is, the feature only works as long as the intended recipient also has a Galaxy phone with the Private Share app .

5G speed

Samsung started to lean for 5G with its 2020 flagship, but here we are a year later and the experience is still mixed. Our review unit came pre-enabled on Verizon’s 5G network and, for the most part, the data speeds were almost as fast, or not, depending on where you are, as the LTE networks that we had access to before.

Yes, there are times when you will find yourself in a mmWave node and see your download speeds skyrocket – we’re talking about more of one gigabit per second. If you find that kind of coverage, consider yourself lucky and don’t get fond of.

The point is that 5G is here and can be pretty good depending on the carrier you’re using . But even though these networks can improve a lot over time, real and valuable performance improvements may be harder to come by than you might expect right now.

And how about the S Pen?
Revisión del Galaxy S21 Ultra: el último gama alta de Samsung. Aplicaciones Android

And of course there is the S Pen. Over the years, we’ve seen Samsung slowly release versions of its signature stylus for laptops and tablets; however, never for non-Note phones until now. As mentioned above, it’s probably because there’s a strong chance that we won’t get a Galaxy Note this year, or ever again, if Reuters reports are about the money.

Al At first, it feels strange to use one of these pens on a non-Note phone. There’s a bit more latency here, so you’ll see his strokes trailing behind the tip of his S Pen. And while the S21 Ultra’s Wacom digitizer means you can still click the S Pen to access its shortcuts, you can’t do any of the remote control tricks that made the Note 20 Ultra a joy to use. (For that, you’ll probably have to wait for Samsung’s S Pen Pro to ship later this year.) Don’t get me wrong: you can still take notes and draw portraits with the S21 Ultra, it just lacks elegance. and the technical finesse for which the Galaxy Note was known.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra battery

Clearly, there is a lot more inside this phone than usual, so how does the battery pack? Until now, the Galaxy S21 Ultra seemed to be on par with devices like the Note 20 Ultra. With the display set to Full HD, I typically ended a day of consistent use with between five and six hours of logged on screen time and plenty in the tank for the next morning. For many people, the Ultra will be a multi-day phone . Just know that it is definitely possible to drain the phone in a day without much effort, especially if you run the screen at its maximum resolution.

Frankly, I expected better since the S21 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh battery and because the Snapdragon 888 has a built-in modem instead of a separate module. Overall, we’re seeing pretty good, not revolutionary battery life.

Galaxy S21 camera

Continuing with the review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, one of the main reasons why this mobile costs so much is because of its cameras. This year, you get five of them: a 40-megapixel front camera for unnecessarily detailed selfies, plus a 108-megapixel wide camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide, and a pair of 10-inch telephoto cameras. megapixels : one with a camera with 3x optical zoom range and one with 10x optical range. Add in laser autofocus to fix the issues we saw with last year’s S20 Ultra and we’ve got one of the most proficient camera setups Samsung has ever created.

That 108 megapixel wide camera will do most of the heavy lifting and performs solidly in all respects. That’s partly due to Samsung’s ridiculous sensor and the way it treats nine smaller sensor pixels as a large one by default, but also because of Samsung’s approach to colors. They are really shocking, especially when looking at photos on the phone, to the point where they generally look better than reality.

That’s the Samsung classic and usually here it is where I would say if the images Ultra takes are “better” than others, it depends on how you like the photos. This time, though, I have to give it to Samsung – I’ve been using Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max quite extensively, and its Smart HDR seems a bit too aggressive at times, making photos look a bit more “Moody” and more contrasting than in reality. lifetime. Samsung images can get a little distorted but they often look more natural, I never expected to say that.

Maximum details

If details are more important to you than any Another thing, you can also shoot with the full 108 megapixel resolution of the sensor . Assuming you get close enough to the subject, it can capture just about everything it has to offer, with all of Samsung’s eye-catching image processing intact. (For cases where you prefer to have a completely intact image to play with, switch to Pro mode and shoot in 12-bit RAW.)

There are two things to keep in mind. First, the resulting files generally weigh between 20 and 30 megabytes, that’s about ten times larger than normal, so be careful with your storage. The other thing is that shooting in full resolution means you don’t get the benefits of pixel binning, so you probably shouldn’t try to use this setting in low light.

Following on from the Galaxy S21 Ultra review, the S21 Ultra’s night mode is noticeably better than last year, which often produced images with a yellowish hue -greenish. Although my usual complaint still applies: Samsung phones want night photos to look as bright as possible, which is good in theory, but not always what you want.

Said this, too, compares very well to the competition: I tested it against the Pixel 5 and Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max , and the Ultra generally produced the cleanest results. Just remember that cleaner doesn’t necessarily mean “better.” The iPhone can erase parts of the images, but its photos actually look like they were taken at night.

Meanwhile, the 12MP ultra-wide is back, and it’s the most forgettable camera here. That doesn’t affect your performance – you take perfectly nice photos when you can’t back away from the subject or when capturing more space is your biggest concern. It’s just not useful as often. The two telephoto cameras are a different story.

Camera Zoom

Having two different zoom cameras on a single phone is unusual, but both do a great job of zooming in (sometimes much more) to action. Even better, we’re working with a pure optical zoom here, so the resulting photos, while perhaps not as detailed as the ones you’d take with the main camera, are still impressive. That’s especially true of the 10x zoom camera, which seemed unnecessary in this review and now I don’t want to give it up.

If you need even more range than that, there is always the Spatial Zoom, which allows you to press up to 100x on a subject. However, once again, Space Zoom raises some ethical concerns. Knowing that you can observe someone who has no idea that you are there never fails to feel unsettling. However, there are more legitimate uses for Space Zoom, and it feels more polished overall. For example: when you are framing your shot, the camera tries to keep what you have set in the frame. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a huge improvement over pointing and praying.

Space Zoom feels a lot more functional, more consistent than last year, especially over a super long range. One could even argue the relative merits of shooting at a 30x zoom – it brings you dramatically closer to your subjects and the results are still clear enough to be worth sharing. But shooting at 100x still feels like mindless bending on Samsung’s part. It’s proof of what the company can do, but I have the impression that Samsung never stopped to think if it should.

More Samsung camera tricks we will offer in this Galaxy S21 review

Revisión del Galaxy S21 Ultra: el último gama alta de Samsung. Aplicaciones Android

SingleTake , a function designed to collect a burst of photos and stylized clips from a single-second recording, produces a slightly wider variety of results, but you probably won’t find more than two or three that are really worth keeping. And beyond that, a new (and fairly well-hidden) content eraser tool lets you selectively remove objects from your photos, sort of like Photoshop’s content-aware fill feature. It’s a work in progress though, so you’ll probably end up with at least a few failed or awkward attempts for every clean and successful split you make.

Incredible videos

The Ultra is also very capable in video, if that’s more your speed. Samsung added a host of new features to bring your footage to life (and I’ll get into those), but there’s a big update to be aware of early on. For the first time ever, you can shoot 4K60 video with any of the Ultra cameras, even the one that is pointed directly at your face all the time. If that somehow wasn’t enough, you can also switch to full-blown 8K video recording, although I can guarantee you that you still don’t have a display that can do it justice. Heck, even some desktop PCs will have a hard time playing that footage.

That’s where Samsung’s new features start to come into play. If you’re going to shoot in 8K anyway, have fun and know that you can touch a button to extract some pretty decent footage from the video stream. Meanwhile, Director’s View is a legitimate treat – instead of blindly switching between cameras and hoping for the best, you can now watch video streams from each one to see exactly what you’re committing to. And just like last year, Samsung’s Super Steady video mode is back, with support for 60fps recording, no less, to make sure your run-and-shoot footage doesn’t turn into a shaky mess.

No matter what weird tool you are using to help you shoot, your footage will mostly turn out great. Emphasis on “mainly.” However, there are some exceptions: at least some of my clips with highly detailed scenes are they look grainy and over-processed when viewed on a proper monitor, but thankfully they were in the minority. Still, overall video quality is an area the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max easily get the Ultra pacing.

In all, I was, and still am, amazed at how much I enjoyed the cameras on the S21. Those relatively minor video issues aside, the flexibility, range, and general competence shown here makes me wonder if I should trade my personal phone for an update. They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and if you carry one of these with you, you have a great tool for almost any occasion.

Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: Conclusion

To finish with the review of the Galaxy S21 Ultra it is an update according to the book: it is faster, its cameras are more polished and its software is a bit cleaner. Calling it excitement would be over the top.

With that in mind, the Ultra absolutely shines this year, not because of the game-changing updates, but because it addresses basically every issue we saw in the model of the last year. This level of competence shown here counts for much more than ambitious and average features. Best of all, it’s less expensive than the model it replaces.

With all that in mind, the Galaxy S21 is definitely worth the splurge for power users and camera fans. Although I recommend waiting a bit before buying one. Samsung is known for its aggressive deals and promotions even shortly after a device was launched. So in this case, as in many others, your patience may pay off.

🙂

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