What we like
The big, bright display is 120 times a second. The battery lasts for a long time. The camera system can be used in many ways. The super-fast processor allows the computer to work very quickly.
What we don’t like
This phone costs a lot. It doesn’t have expandable storage so you can’t put more music, videos, and apps. There is no charging cord in the box when it arrives at your house.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is better than the S20 Ultra. It fixes some problems, but it does not have an SD card or charging brick. But the phone has many great features like a clean design, wonderful display, blazing-fast performance, and one of the most versatile camera systems you can get in a smartphone today.
Table of contents
Design. Performance. Battery. Camera. Software. Specs. Value.* Verdict *
Samsung uses the word Ultra to denote its biggest and best smartphone of that generation.* Last year, the Galaxy S20 got an Ultra model, trumping the standard S20 in sheer size and brawn.* Then, a few months later,
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra was a little bit disappointing. It had a huge camera and other nice things, but the camera didn’t work as well as it should have. The phone also cost $1,399 which is like the price of two cars.
Samsung made a new phone. It’s called the Galaxy S21 Ultra. There are many new things on this phone that are different from last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. This new phone has better cameras, a nicer design, and it is cheaper than last year’s model.
Design and display: Simple, yet sophisticated
The design of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is similar to other phones in the same series. It looks better than the S20 series of phones. The camera bump on this phone makes it look like it is intentional and not just a design flaw. The camera bump on this phone blends into the design instead of sticking out like on previous models
Samsung has a new phone. The Galaxy S21. It does not have fingerprints on it, unlike the Galaxy from before. You can buy this phone in different colors too, like black or silver or brown.
If you like big displays, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a good phone. The screen size is 6.8 inches and people will not feel too overwhelmed with it. The picture quality is also good and I did not have any problem using it outside in the sun.
This phone has a high resolution. The resolution is 3,200 x 1440. It changes its refresh rate depending on the content you are looking at on the phone. For example, it can be as low as 10Hz for eBooks and as high as 120Hz for gaming. If you want to make it 60Hz all the time,
This phone has a curved screen that is different from the flat screens on the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus. It was easy to hold without problems with ghost touches, which I found on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
This year’s Galaxy S21 uses a punch-hole camera in the top center of the screen. I like this better than notches. But I prefer them in the corner of the screen instead of the center. What do you think? Maybe we will soon see something new, like an under-display selfie camera, become mainstream.
If you like to use an under-display fingerprint sensor, the S21 has one for you to play with. It is much better than the first generation one we have seen on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10. The new sensor is fast and accurate. I am happy that this sensor also works when it might be obstructed by water
The Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports a new pen. This pen has less functionality than the pen in the Galaxy Note series, but it can be useful for doodling or taking notes. And if you want those features, Samsung will be selling an S-Pen Pro later this year.
Samsung is selling cases to hold the S Pen accessory. The cases are good, but they are awkward to use. They only work for Samsung S21 Ultra, so if you do not have an S Pen diehard, you might want to try them!
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a lot better than last year’s S20 model. It has a matte texture instead of glossy, and the camera bump looks more classy. I also like how it doesn’t say 100x Space Zoom anymore because that was ugly.
Performance and battery: Fast and efficient
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was the first phone in the United States to have a new mobile platform. It also flew, so it is good. The global model of this phone had another processor, but I’m reviewing this for people who have Snapdragon 888 processors.
I did not see any slowdowns on this device. It did everything I asked it to do. Apps never felt sluggish or got kicked out of memory, because the phone has a very fast processor and a lot of RAM.
You can see the chart has some good scores for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. It did well in Gary Sims’ Speed Test G. The CPU, mixed, and GPU were all really good. But it’s not as good as the Asus ROG Phone 3 in terms of its GPU. We are confident that this phone will do
The Exynos 2100 model performed well too. This is good news for people who buy Samsung phones and worry about the performance of an Exynos device. But after testing it, I found that the Exynos can’t do as well as Snapdragon models. For people who play games for hours, this could be a problem because it
Benchmarks show how well the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra works. It was doing about as well as you can expect from Qualcomm’s latest chipset. The S21 Ultra scored 5,022 in Geekbench 4 single-core and 13,915 in multi-core. Last year’s Snapdragon 865-powered Galaxy S20 Ultra scored 4,
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a 5G-capable phone. It can connect to low-band, mid-band, and mmWave 5G networks. In my review unit, I had a Verizon SIM card so I could test all of these speeds. Your experience with your phone will vary depending on where you are. If you are in an area that has good cell service, then your phone will work well. But if there is no cell service, then it will not work. The speed of the network also matters.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a new Wi-Fi protocol. It is called Wi-Fi 6E. This means the phone can get better speeds and more bandwidth, but it might be hard to understand. If you want to learn more about this, read our article here.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has 128-512GB of storage. It is more than most people need. This is the most common amount of storage that phones have now. Samsung took away the microSD card in this phone, but it’s okay because they still have plenty of storage for your files. Samsung is not including a headphone jack and a microSD card in their new phones, and this might be a blow to many of their longtime customers. But if you want these features, you need to look at another phone like the LG V60 or one of Samsung’s phones from last year.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 5,000mAh battery. That is larger than most other devices. The Asus ROG Phone 3 has a 6,000mAh battery. On lighter days I got two whole days out of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with 15% left after the second day. If you take lots of photos and videos and also play games on your phone, you can use up the battery. You will probably be able to use it for one day and a half.
It is a good thing that the charger for the Galaxy S21 series is not in the box. Some people might not have a charging brick. It can be bad for the environment because it takes a lot of electricity to make a brick and ship it from one place to another. The cable included with the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a USB-C to USB-C cable. Most people will need to buy a charger that matches the same type of cable.
If you do not have a charger, Samsung will sell you one for $19.99. But I think it is better to buy another charger that can charge my phone faster than just 25W. We tested many chargers but only 2 of them charged the Galaxy S21 Ultra at a full speed of 45W. Your other options are either
The S21 Ultra charges at 25W. This is more than last year when Samsung sold an optional 45W charger for the Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, the 45W charger was found to only make a small difference in overall charging speed, which is probably why Samsung pulled support for it. This is a bad thing, as brands like OnePlus, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi have been making chargers with speeds of 30W, 60W, and even 120W in recent years. I hoped Samsung would do it too. But if they remove the charger from the box, it will stop the race for who has the fastest charging smartphone
The Galaxy S21 series has a wireless charger. It can charge quickly up to 15 watts and also does reverse charging at 9 watts. This is useful if you need to power up your smartwatch or if you’re charging another phone, but the power transfer will probably be less efficient when you do that because it will produce heat.
Wireless charging is good, but not the best. Nowadays, some people use wireless chargers that are better. They charge really fast.
Camera: One, two, zoooooooooooooom
To put it mildly, the camera system on last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra was not good. The main 108MP sensor had major focusing problems, the 4x optical telephoto camera wasn’t as long as some other flagships, and the 100x Space Zoom that Samsung printed on the camera module was barely usable.
Samsung has fixed most of those problems with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The new ISOCELL Bright HM3 108MP sensor brings improved focusing and low-light performance, especially when aided by the new laser-guided focus assist. And now, instead of sporting one telephoto camera, the S21 Ultra is packing two. In Samsung’s camera module, you’ll find a wide, main, and 3x optical telephoto lens. In addition to these lenses, you’ll also find a 10x optical telephoto lens. This is the second smartphone in the world to do this, with Huawei being the first one.
Specs aside, you might wonder how this camera system really performs. I am very happy to say that the 108MP main sensor has better focusing than last year’s model. The laser-guided focusing system helps a lot, and I rarely have any trouble trying to focus on what I want to take a picture of.
The 108MP sensor is not binned by default, meaning Samsung groups nine pixels together to make one big pixel. This will result in better quality than last year. You can take 108MP images, but you should not do this because they don’t look good and there’s not enough light in each photosite so the image won’t show
But when I nona-binned, the resulting image was good. The color coming out of Samsung sensors has gotten better since the Galaxy Note 20 series. These colors are more muted and natural than they were before, and there is still enough detail without oversharpening. Samsung phones tend to overexpose a little. The large camera sensor creates a nice amount of bokeh and I did not feel like I needed to use portrait mode very much.
This new sensor is pretty good in low light. Pictures are very clear and sharp. You can still get a little bit of smearing if you don’t hold your hands still, but it’s better than other phones.
Wide-angle shots looked really good. The distortion correction at the edges worked well, and the colors were natural. Sometimes cameras that shoot wide-angle pictures look different than other cameras because of their color profile, but Samsung did a good job of making all the sensors have a similar tonality.
Okay, now we will talk about cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has two cameras. One is 3x and the other is 10x. This is good because most people will use 3x most of the time, but it’s also nice to have that extra reach when you need it.
The quality of the pictures from both cameras is good, but the 3x camera is just a bit sharper than the 10x lens. This makes sense since the 10x has a smaller opening. The small opening means that less light gets in and there’s more noise. But it’s better than before when we took pictures with software which would
The new 10x optical camera improves the zoom from last year’s device. The 30x and 100x zooming is better than last year. If you zoomed to 100x before, it may have been hard to see. But this year, it is not as bad as the other phone company’s phone with the same zoom camera.
To take a picture further away, Samsung has a shake-reduction system. It will help you aim and when you are trying to be stable it will turn yellow. This is very useful when you have to take pictures of something that is close.
Portrait mode photos are good. They have strong edge detection because of the laser-guided autofocus sensor. But they are not perfect yet. Sometimes they can get confused when there is a lot of detail behind the subject, and I hope it gets better in time. If not, I hope that bigger portrait-length sensors will be
This camera is very good. It has a sensor that is 400MP, but it will often just use 10MP. The color is great in good light, but when the light isn’t so bright it gets a little bit fuzzy and not as colorful. Overall I was happy with this camera.
One new thing about this iPhone is that it has two different settings for selfies. Natural makes the face look darker, whereas bright will make the shadows brighter. I think natural is better because it has more contrast on my face.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra can take video up to 8K at 24fps or 4K at 60fps. The quality was usually really good, but I noticed oversharpening and artifacts when there were hard edges in the picture. Stabilization was also very good, probably because of optical image stabilization on all lenses except the wide one,
The selfie camera can also shoot 4K video at up to 60fps, and overall it looked great. Color and sharpness were just as good as the other cameras, and I was very impressed overall.
Software: Hello, Android 12
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra launched with Samsung’s One UI 3.1 based on Android 11. One UI 3.0 brought a number of new features, like support for bubble notifications, quick access to widgets, more precise volume control, and the introduction of Samsung Free. The 3.1 update adds a number of smaller changes, like background videos that you can take while on a phone call, the ability to see what the director sees in videos, and being able to record from both cameras at the same time.
On the left home screen, Samsung has given you an option to use Google Discover or Samsung Free. Samsung Free is a new service that is much like the old Bixby Home. It offers many free services and apps such as Pluto TV. Some people have Samsung phones. Samsung has switched to using Google apps as the default. But most people in the United States still use Samsung Messages.
One UI is a recognizable Samsung style. One UI has been around since the Galaxy S10 series, and it is still different from other companies’ interfaces. It has many rounded parts that complement the curved screens on Galaxy phones.
As of now, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has received its Android 12 update. One UI 4 has come along with many new customization options. This makes it one of the first non-Pixel devices to do so.
Samsung has ads for other Samsung products in its UI. This is not OK because the Galaxy S21 Ultra is expensive. In the past, people have been angry about this but Samsung still does it.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has removed Samsung’s wonderful MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) technology from the US version of the device. This is the technology that allowed Samsung Pay to emulate a credit card by emitting a magnetic field matching that of a credit card strip. Samsung is going to stop using NFC. This will be a problem because MST was one of the best things about Samsung Pay.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: The verdict
This is one of the most expensive phones. It costs $1200. But it has a lot of good features and I don’t think it’s too expensive. The first phone with this kind of technology came out earlier this year and was one of the best at that time, so I believe it is worth the price. In addition, if you want 10x optical telephoto zoom, you’re left between the S21 Ultra or the Huawei P40 Pro Plus — and only one of those is easy to buy and has full access to Google services.
Samsung is trying to sell the S21 Ultra this year. It has a “Glasstic” design, and it does not have a WQHD+ display. The camera system from last year is the same on both the S21 and S21 Plus. If you want a new camera experience and the very best specs, the S21 Ultra is your only option out of the three.
All in all, I think that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a great start to 2021 for Samsung. It has a good design. The display is wonderful and should last you all day. The battery life can last for most people’s whole day, and it also has the best camera today. The baseline 12GB of RAM should be more than enough for years to come, and Samsung’s commitment to delivering at least three years of major Android updates to its smartphones means you won’t have to worry about missing out on the latest and greatest features for quite a while.
If you want a big microSD card, headphone jack, or really fast charger, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is not the phone for you. But if those things are not important to you and it has everything else you need, this phone might be perfect for you.