Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Cheaper… and Better?
Ultra last year, samsung launched the galaxy s20 ultra, which it positioned as the most powerful phone money could buy, with a big focus on photography, more specifically on telephotography that’s zoom shots. It also had top of the line specs along with a giant screen and a giant price tag to go with it launching at fourteen hundred dollars this year. The s21 ultra brings the price a bit back down to earth while improving samsung’s space, zoom camera tech and serves as a launching point for the snapdragon 888 platform. At least here in the us. The s21 ultra is an enthusiast’s phone with a great looking new design and every hardware spec. You could possibly ask for well almost i’m hayata with android central and let’s talk about samsung’s latest 1200 super phone, just like its predecessor, the galaxy s21 ultra is an absolute unit at 229 grams it’s, heavier than both the s20 ultra and the note 20 ultra. And you can feel every bit of that weight in your hands and pocket. On the other hand, you can also feel just how great this new design is. I’M, a big fan of matte frosted glass, and this phantom black finish is just stunning in person. It does a much better job at hiding fingerprints than last year’s, s20 ultra and the new contour cut camera housing gives it a really distinguished look that grew on me almost instantly that housing consists of four new and improved cameras, including an updated 108 megapixel primary sensor.
An ultra wide camera and for the first time, two telephoto cameras, one at 3x and one at 10x. It also holds an led flash along with the same laser autofocus sensor. We saw on the note 20 ultra, along with the camera improvements. Samsung has gone all out with the s21 ultra’s display it’s the company’s first screen that supports both quad hd plus resolution and a 120 hertz refresh rate. At the same time, you don’t have to choose one or the other anymore. The s21 ultra also touts a 5 million to 1 contrast ratio, meaning a much wider range between the brightest and darkest points of the display, and it can reach up to 1500 nits of peak brightness, making it easy to read in direct sunlight. The s21 ultra is also the first galaxy s device that supports the s pen with the same 4096 levels of pressure, sensitivity that you’d find on a galaxy note. It works exactly as you’d expect and you can use any s pen from previous galaxy note or galaxy tab devices or buy one separately if you don’t already have one sitting around. As for the two caveats for one there’s, nowhere to store the s pen when you’re done with it, unless you decide to buy one of samsung’s clunky, looking cases that adds width to the already massive footprint of the phone. But that also means that there’s no way to charge the s pen, so you lose any of its bluetooth features like remote, shutter operation that’s a bit of a bummer, but i honestly rarely use those features anyway, and especially right now, when it’s so cold, i can Barely stand to be outside without gloves, i really appreciate having the option to even use the s pen and this just further blurs the line between galaxy s and galaxy note.
Now. All of these hardware additions are great, but there are still some trade offs with the galaxy s21 ultra you’ve probably already heard that there’s, no more micro, sd support and well yeah you’re gon na be stuck with the internal storage configuration that you choose up front. Thankfully, that starts at 128 gigabytes and reaches up to half a terabyte if you’re willing to spend an extra 180 dollars, which will also bump you from 12 to 16 gigabytes of ram combined with the snapdragon 888 processor. That means you’re never going to have to worry about the phone slowing down and it leaves plenty of headroom for 8k video and graphics, intensive gaming, and just in case you missed our unboxing video there’s, also no longer a charging brick or wired headphones in the box. This may or may not be a big deal to you, but it’s good to know ahead of time either way so the galaxy s21 ultra ships with android 11, which acts as the foundation for samsung’s latest iteration of one ui version 3.1 it’s. A pretty significant visual overhaul coming from one ui 2 on last year’s phones with lots of gaussian blur behind menu items, samsung’s new expanded volume controls and some general android 11 design philosophies like the new categorized notification system. Aside from the new aesthetics, though, samsung’s software feels as familiar as ever bixby’s still a thing for better or well for worse anyway, but you can finally swap samsung’s news feed for the google discover feed to the left of the home screen, which i’m very happy to See i’m also elated, that samsung has finally improved the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display it’s 1.
7 times larger than before, and that lets it authenticate you much quicker and more accurately. This is the first time i can say that samsung’s in display fingerprint sensor is actually competitive with the rest of the market and though it took too long to reach this point. I’M just glad it’s. Finally, here now we’ll get into the cameras in just a minute, but before we do, we should talk about the battery life, because that quad hd plus 120 hertz display, does take a bit of a toll. The galaxy s21 ultra has the same 5, 000 milliamp hour battery as the s20 ultra and running the display at its highest setting i’ve been ending most days with about 10 to 15 battery remaining and an average seven hours of screen on time. That’S good, but it doesn’t quite match the levels of say the pixel 5 or galaxy s20 fe. Of course, those phones don’t have nearly as much going on with their displays, and you can certainly stretch out more endurance by turning quad, hd plus or 120 hertz off or even both if you’re feeling it. I think most people will be perfectly happy with the s21 ultra’s battery life, but it isn’t the sort of phone that lets. You practically forget about charging entirely all right now, let’s finally talk about what really sets the s21 ultra apart. Its new quad camera system. Samsung is calling the updated 108 megapixel primary sensor, it’s bright night sensor, because it’s significantly improved low light performance and overall light intake at its core.
It works the same way as the main sensor on the s20 ultra. You can shoot at the full 108 megapixel resolution or drop down to 12 megapixels with 9 to 1 pixel binning for a more storage friendly, shot, either way, you’re getting great results here with extremely impressive natural bokeh, thanks to the massive sensor and as always, samsung’s image. Processing has a tendency for vivid, colors and bright highlights new to the s21 ultra. You can shoot 12 bit raw photos in pro mode, which offers a lot more flexibility in post. If you’re, the type of person like me who likes to edit every photo before it reaches social media, even without a dedicated macro sensor, this camera also takes great shots. Up close these two samples were captured with the phone just an inch away from the subject. Just look at all the detail in the microfoam of my coffee and thanks to its improvements in low light performance, the s21 ultra can take clean, great, looking shots in the dark without even having to switch to its dedicated night mode. Of course, if a scene is too dark, it’ll automatically toggle a long exposure, usually around 2 seconds to minimize the effects of any hand jitter. The ultra wide camera is impressive as well, but it’s, nothing groundbreaking over what we’ve seen from previous samsung devices. One change to note is that the s21 ultra has a 0.6 x perspective, where most galaxy phones have utilized a 0.
5 x wide angle, but the difference is pretty minor and either way it takes perfectly fine shots. The more interesting set of cameras is the new dual telephoto arrangement, which balances two 10 megapixel sensors to offer both native 3x and 10x zooms. Both lenses also feature 10x digital zoom, topping off at 30x and 100x respectively. This is a pretty different approach from how samsung achieved its 100x space zoom last year and, while i still don’t think the results at that upper limit are particularly useful. They are better than before. At the very least, more importantly, the levels below 100x look great, i’ve been pretty happy with even 30x, but especially at the native 3x and 10x perspectives, it’s almost shocking just how easily you can capture crystal clear shots, even while you’re walking around i know, it’s become A bit of a punch line that phones these days have too many cameras, but trust me adding a second telephoto lens and offering different native zoom lengths is a great move that i want to see a lot more often in 2021, just like on the s20 ultra. You can also shoot 8k video at 24 frames per second from the main sensor, but new to the s21 ultra. You can also shoot in 4k, 60 on all five lenses front and back as for the quality of that video there’s, a lot of sharpening going on in the image processing – and i don’t always love how the cameras handle exposure in video.
But footage still generally looks pretty good look. None of these new features are necessarily game changers, if you’re already coming from the s20 ultra, with the possible exception of the s pen support. But if that’s enough to draw you in you’re, probably coming from a previous galaxy note device instead still, if you’re, using something a bit older or lower end, the galaxy s21 ultra really does offer the ultimate samsung experience with none of its predecessor’s, auto, focusing issues or Dull design, some power users will understandably be put off by the omission of microsd support, but for the rest of us who are fine, relying on internal and cloud storage, there are basically no compromises with the s21 ultra. It isn’t just the best samsung phone around it’s, possibly the best android phone you can buy in early 2021 Music. If you want to see more photo samples and overarching thoughts on the s21 ultra head over to androidcentral.