The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra not only has to meet the high expectations, but also the weaknesses of its predecessor. Although the device delivers in almost all areas, there is new need for discussion.
When Samsung presented the futuristic-looking Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020, there was great interest. But the enthusiasm died down quickly. Because despite its impressive technology, the smartphone, which was supposed to symbolize the spearhead of technology, still felt a bit out of round. Ten months later, the South Koreans dare a new attempt with the Galaxy S21 Ultra and this time and this much can be anticipated from the test result, the top model of the Galaxy S21 series is convincing.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: A new and better design
Compared to its predecessor, Samsung has given the Galaxy S21 Ultra fine-tuning in every nook and cranny. This can already be seen in the design: the lush camera module of the predecessor no longer looks grafted onto the new device, but merges directly into the frame on the sides. In addition, there is a matt glass surface on the back, which does not offer any contact surface for fingerprints.
A 6.8-inch display with an aspect ratio of 20: 9 sits on the front. In contrast to previous Galaxy S models, Samsung does without an edge display in the S21 Ultra, with the side edges curved outwards. The front glass of the new flagship only offers a very slight and barely perceptible curve to the outside. Instead of tempting you to make incorrect entries, it improves handiness.
Overall, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a much higher quality look and feel than its predecessor. With its size and weight of 227 grams, it is not necessarily a phone for small hands, but it is better in the hand than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, for example, which is almost four millimeters wider and does not have rounded sides.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The display unfolds its full potential
For mobile content, there is currently no better display than that of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Technically, the manufacturer is building on what has proven itself in the previous model. The screen offers exactly the same resolution with 3,200 x 1,440 pixels and also supports the optional display with 120 Hertz. Unlike the S20 Ultra, which could only display 120 Hertz in Full HD, you can now use the high frame rate at full resolution.
Samsung basically gives users the choice between 60 Hertz and an adaptive refresh rate, which adapts automatically depending on the content displayed. As a result, the repetition rate for static content can be reduced to up to 10 Hertz, which reduces energy consumption accordingly. When scrolling quickly or in games, however, the Galaxy S21 Ultra calls up the full 120 Hertz. The bottom line is that the device is still more economical in 60 Hertz mode, but there is a better feeling of use in adaptive mode. The high refresh rate ensures a smooth and judder-free operating experience.
Otherwise, Samsung again delivers an AMOLED display of the absolute upper class with crisp colors, great contrasts and a maximum brightness of an unbelievable 1,500 nits. The screen remains easy to read even in bright sunlight. The high brightness is also beneficial for an impressive HDR display.
In addition to the display, the built-in speakers are convincing. The stereo setup paints a surprisingly rich sound and is definitely worthy of a luxury smartphone. Headphones are not included in the scope of delivery of the device.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: The finest hardware for maximum performance
With the Galaxy S21 Ultra, users get a smartphone that is in the flagship class without any ifs or buts. The performance for games, image processing or augmented reality applications leaves nothing to be desired thanks to the Exynos 2100 processor. In contrast to its predecessor, the new 5 nanometer chip from Samsung does not noticeably lag behind the competition in terms of performance. In combination with the 120 Hertz display, this results in an extremely smooth user experience.
A 5G modem is also installed on the processor module for the use of the latest cellular standard. All frequency bands used in Germany are supported. In addition to a suitable mobile phone contract, the operator must also expand the network. Here the Galaxy S21 Ultra is far ahead of the current status quo of the European cellular networks.
Samsung offers models with 128, 256 and 512 GB of super-fast UFS 3.1 storage. Unlike earlier models in the Galaxy S series, the S21 Ultra no longer has a slot for micro SD cards. The memory can therefore no longer be expanded retrospectively, which is why buyers should think directly about how much data storage they will likely need for their usage behavior. The main memory is generously dimensioned with 12 or 16 GB RAM (for the 512 GB model) and does not create any bottlenecks in everyday use.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Battery, charging and running time
The package is rounded off by a fat 5000 mAh battery. The supports fast charging with up to 25 watts and wireless charging with up to 15 watts. Similar to the iPhone 12, however, the smartphone no longer includes a power supply unit. Anyone who can use an old power plug, everyone else must purchase a separate power supply. Some users won’t mind, others will be really annoyed about it.
When it comes to loading speed, the competition is already ahead. The Oppo Reno4 Pro, for example, charges much faster with 65 watts and even its predecessor, the Galaxy S20 Ultra, can be optionally charged with up to 45 watts. It is not known why Samsung has slimmed down in this area. Samsung may fear faster battery wear due to the rapid charging technology.
In contrast to its predecessor, however, the runtime is really positive this time. With everyday use, the 5,000 mAh should definitely be enough for a full day and still have enough reserves for a long night or the next morning. If you use your Galaxy S21 Ultra a bit more moderately, reduce the resolution to Full HD and maybe only need 60 Hertz instead of 120 Hertz, you can squeeze a second day out of the device.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Mobile camera with a fun factor
Filming and taking photos is a lot of fun with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. In the camera sector, too, Samsung is primarily relying on the evolution of technology from the previous model, but has refined it in some key areas. The result can convince across the board.
As in the last Ultra model, a 108 megapixel sensor with an f / 1.8 aperture is also used here. There is also a 12-megapixel lens for ultra-wide-angle shots and two zoom lenses, each with a 10-megapixel sensor. Number one creates a three-fold optical magnification, while number two even allows a loss-free ten-fold zoom. This enables chic zoom shots, which most other smartphones are struggling with.
Digitally the device even creates a 100x zoom. However, the resulting images are so pixelated that they are no longer convincing. As with its predecessor, this so-called space zoom is primarily a gimmick. At least it is now easier to focus the camera on a distant object because the S21 Ultra has a subject locking mode that automatically focuses on the corresponding object.
Basically, the camera setup of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is consistent. The results achieved by the individual lenses are also consistent in color and style. However, there are differences in the details. The 10x optics, for example, drop significantly due to the f / 4.9 aperture used in poor lighting conditions and produce very noisy images. The main lens produces the best photos with its 108 megapixel sensor. They look sharp and offer good contrasts and rich colors.
In contrast to last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, this time there is a laser autofocus, which works much faster and more reliably than the focus of the previous model. The night mode, which is now roughly at the very high level of the Huawei flagship smartphones, has also been screwed on. The latter only applies to recordings with the main lens. With the other optics, the quality of night photos visibly decreases.
Even the front camera, although technically identical to the one from the previous year, snaps nicer selfies this year and asks users whether they prefer a natural or a digitally brightened look. On top of that, there is again a Pro mode, automatic scene recognition for appropriate filters, a portrait mode and the option to save photos in RAW format.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Film like a filmmaker?
Samsung has also fine-tuned the smartphone’s video function. All four main lenses and the front camera can also be used here and, if desired, all of them can be filmed in Ultra HD with up to 60 frames per second and good image stabilization. What is new is the so-called stage view, which simultaneously shows the perspectives of four of the five built-in lenses (the ten-fold zoom is missing here) and lets the user switch back and forth at any time. This is not only technically impressive, but also practical. If you want to take it even more professional, you will find all possible setting options in Pro mode, from shutter speeds to white balance and focus settings.
For fans of vlogs, Instagram, TikTok, there is also a mode for portrait format videos in which special background effects can be set directly. There is also Hyperlapse and the ability to take super slow motion recordings with up to 960 frames per second.
With its versatility and the possibilities that the Pro mode has in store for connoisseurs, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is also one of the most powerful smartphones on the market in the video sector.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: What else is important
Like all models since the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is also protected against dust and water according to the industrial standard IP68. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which is integrated into the display, is also available for biometric unlocking. It is around 77 percent larger than in the predecessor and therefore works even better.
A special feature is the support of the S Pen. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first Samsung smartphone that recognizes the stylus known from the Note series with all of its more than 4,000 pressure levels. Samsung wants to offer a suitable pen and pen case in the future. However, older S pens from the Galaxy Note series or Samsung tablets can currently also be used with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Conclusion: Finally the “Ultra” is justified
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a high-end smartphone with an almost unmanageable number of features, most of which are very well implemented. Unlike the previous model, which in many places still looked unfinished and over-ambitious, the new flagship is a well-rounded and accomplished affair.
If you are not put off by the high price, you will find the very finest in technology that the market currently has to offer. In addition to minor weaknesses, such as the lower charging speed compared to the Chinese competition, the lack of a power supply is the main reason for new discussion. Like Apple, Samsung is playing the environmental card, but is imposing additional costs on some customers. However, the fact should not hide the fact that the smartphone year 2021 starts with a real bang, thanks to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Pros:
- + Strong performance
- + Reference display
- + Very good photo camera
- + Great video camera
- + Extremely many features
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Cons:
- – High RRP
- – No SD card slot
- – No included power supply
- – Charge “only” with 25 watts