The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra finally lives up to its moniker


Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The year has just begun, but Samsung has already launched the Galaxy S21 series. This makes it the earliest ever launch for Galaxy S flagships.

Many eyes are on the bottom Galaxy S21 as Samsung has reduce pricing to a smart (for 2021) $800, down from the $1,000 base Galaxy S20 only a yr in the past. However, the most important upgrades are reserved for the facility user-friendly Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra turns into the third super-premium Samsung telephone to bear the Ultra moniker, and with its newest entry, the road would possibly finally be dwelling up to the identify.

Our verdict: Samsung Galaxy S21 reviewSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Leaping up to the super-premium tier

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra display standing up 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Samsung’s Ultra telephones are usually characterised by in depth spec sheets and costly worth tags. The Galaxy S20 Ultra set the bar excessive in each of those areas, significantly the latter. It launched at an eye-watering $1,400, however Samsung toned it down (if solely a tiny bit) for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which got here in at $1,300.

As for the specs, Samsung dedicated to an “everything but the kitchen sink” method with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Consumers obtained a 120Hz OLED display screen, a 108MP predominant digital camera, a 4x periscope zoom lens, and an enormous 5,000mAh battery. Yet, the gadget additionally had greater than its justifiable share of troubles. Those included the shortcoming to use the 120Hz mode at QHD+ decision, infamous autofocus issues with the primary digital camera, the terrible and shaky 100x zoom characteristic, and an underpowered Exynos mannequin.

Samsung’s Ultra telephones are characterised by in depth spec sheets and costly worth tags.

It’s comprehensible to have one or two niggles like these in any premium smartphone. However, it’s fairly laborious to forgive whenever you’re paying $1,400 for a tool.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra represented a step in the suitable course for the Ultra line, as Samsung sought to enhance issues as well as to the fractionally cheaper price. It added laser autofocus to enhance focusing with the primary digital camera, dialed again the zoom to a extra lifelike 50x, and upped the native zoom issue. The producer additionally added the power to use 120Hz at QHD+ decision.

Unfortunately, the Note 20 Ultra nonetheless suffered from some of the same issues because the early 2020 launch. There was the underpowered Exynos model, common battery life, and digital camera high quality that wasn’t fairly best-in-class. Nevertheless, it was clear that Samsung was heading in the right direction.

Finally fulfilling the Ultra promise?

The Galaxy S21 Ultra positively appears to reside up to the promise set by the primary Ultra gadget. A big a part of that’s due to the agency taking the time to get issues proper with this version.

Those important focusing points finally appear to be a factor of the previous for probably the most half. Our personal David Imel confirmed “much better” efficiency on this regard than the S20 Ultra throughout his Galaxy S21 Ultra testing. That’s primarily due to the laser autofocus, in addition to the brand new HM3 108MP sensor providing extra correct autofocus.

Samsung additionally devoted sources to delivering a greater zoom expertise, that includes not one however two telephoto lenses. Instead of a solitary 4x periscope digital camera, we’ve obtained a 3x telephoto lens and a 10x periscope snapper. The latter additionally ends in a greater basis for 100x zoom, delivering extra element and making it midway useable. It doesn’t damage that Samsung additionally launched a shake-reduction for long-range zoom.

Read extra: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S20 series — is it worth an upgrade?

Another method the Galaxy S21 Ultra grabs the Ultra mantle is by implementing S Pen help for the primary time within the household. Sure, it lacks the Note line’s built-in S Pen slot and also you’ll have to pay further for one, however at the very least you should buy a case with a slot to your comfort. It additionally doesn’t damage that Samsung continues the Note 20 Ultra pattern of providing a dynamic 120Hz refresh fee at QHD+, giving customers the perfect of each worlds.

All of those enhancements additionally come at a less expensive worth than final yr’s top-end gadget. The S21 Ultra will set you again $1,200. It’s solely $200 cheaper than the S20 Ultra and $100 cheaper than the Note 20 Ultra, nevertheless it nonetheless represents a pleasing change from final yr’s costs, and upsets a rising pattern of increasingly expensive Galaxy S flagships.

There are nonetheless just a few complaints to be had nonetheless. The Exynos 2100 model nonetheless lags behind the Snapdragon 888 variant when it comes to graphics efficiency particularly. Yet, it’s clear that Samsung has narrowed this hole in 2021.

Samsung’s telephones additionally lack expandable storage and chargers this yr. The latter particularly is a significant bummer due to the $1,200 price ticket. This is doubly disappointing when Xiaomi costs the identical worth for the Mi 11 in China no matter whether or not you need a charger or not.

Not simply the perfect of a ho-hum bunch

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 1 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

With its 2021 Galaxy S telephones, Samsung has managed to strike an affordable steadiness by way of the options/spec hole between all three S21 sequence gadgets. This isn’t all the time a given both, because the Galaxy Note 20 sequence just lately demonstrated.

The characteristic gulf between the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra was huge. The base mannequin provided an FHD+ 60Hz display screen, much less RAM than even the earlier yr’s Note 10 Plus, a polarizing plastic back, and no microSD slot (sadly not one of the S21 telephones have this both). That’s with out the downgrades that have been barely extra comprehensible, akin to a smaller battery and a much less spectacular digital camera combo. Even that wasn’t as stress delicate because the Ultra’s stylus. If you needed a top-tier new Note telephone in 2020, there was just one actual possibility, making the “Ultra” the de facto gadget moderately than the super-premium different.

Read: Galaxy S21 prices make this Samsung’s most inclusive line-up in years

Meanwhile, there wasn’t a lot of a motive to splash out on the S20 Ultra over the S20 Plus (and even the S20 for some folks) earlier within the yr. Sure, the Ultra mannequin had that 108MP predominant digital camera, 4x periscope digital camera, and an enormous battery. However, every little thing else was nigh-on equal between the telephones. The aforementioned autofocus points and zoom gimmickry did no favors for the S20 Ultra both. You weren’t lacking a lot by choosing an S20 Plus.

Moving to the Galaxy S21 sequence, it’s clear that the hole in options is way wider between the Ultra and different fashions. Some of the extra notable options left out for the S21 and S21 Plus embrace a QHD+ display screen, the upper megapixel predominant sensor and selfie digital camera, a real optical zoom expertise, S Pen help, and Wi-Fi 6E compatibility. These Ultra-only options, on high of the opposite technical upgrades like extra RAM and an even bigger battery, earmark the Galaxy S21 Ultra because the bonafide large canine of the Galaxy S21 household.

I’m not saying the S21 and S21 Plus are dangerous telephones — removed from it. Unlike the Note 20, you’re nonetheless getting an important flagship expertise. You nonetheless get the 120Hz OLED display screen, improved digital camera software program, and stable endurance. And all of this is available in at a beginning worth of $799. That’s $200 cheaper than the bottom Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy S20 to boot.

The widening characteristic hole isn’t the one motive why the Galaxy S21 Ultra appears to be like like an important superphone although. It’s now greater than a match for any super-premium telephone available on the market.

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Even Apple’s $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max doesn’t fairly provide the identical proposition because the S21 Ultra, at the very least on paper. Sure, you is likely to be spending $100 extra by going for the Samsung telephone, however the iPhone 12 Pro Max is actually a glorified iPhone 12 Pro. It’s “Max” by identify, however solely in measurement, not its feature set. Say what you’ll about Android vs iOS and variations in design, nevertheless it’s robust to argue that Samsung isn’t stuffing in additional options for the value.

That’s not to say that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is an ideal gadget. The lack of expandable storage and the lacking charger are lamentable omissions. Power customers may additionally nonetheless be mourning the lack of the three.5mm port too. Yet, you may’t deny that the S21 Ultra earned the Ultra title.


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