Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra Hands-On Review | Mashable Reviews
First, as far as availability goes, samsung’s new flagships will officially go on sale starting january 29th. You’Ll have the choice between the s21 with a 6.2 inch display, starting at 7.99, the s21 plus, with a 6.7 inch display, starting at 9.99 and the s21 ultra, with a 6.8 inch display starting at 11.99. Yes, samsung did manage to lower the cost of all three phones since last year, but you’re still going to want to give a lot of thought as to whether you actually want to drop that much money on these phones. And i say this only because the s21 and s21 ultra are basically bursting at the seams when it comes to its features and that’s, not a good thing. Let’S just quickly run down the list of what it is you’re even getting with these a 64 megapixel telephoto lens on the galaxy s21, a 108 megapixel wide angle lens on the s21 ultra features like director’s view, portrait mode single, takes space, zoom stylus compatibility on the S21 ultra, i mean there’s a ton here and that’s only some of the things packed into these phones. How many of these are you gon na realistically use i’m gon na? Take a guess and say: maybe half at most but i’ll start with the good stuff first, because samsung did make a lot of improvements worth mentioning since the s20 last year. First, off i’m, a huge fan of the design, even though i thought the s20 and s20 ultra were really nice.
It almost feels like samsung, played it a bit safe in comparison. The matte finish on both the s21 and s21 ultra look and feel super sleek and with the camera now built into the metal frame, it all looks a lot more streamlined, it’s more durable. This time around too, since you don’t, have to worry as much about cracking or scratching the glass if you accidentally drop the phone also there’s one thing: you’re, probably seeing a lot of people complain about and that’s the plastic back on the s21 i’m personally, very okay With it, because it’s lightweight, which makes it less annoying to carry in my bag or pockets and it’s a lot easier to hold with one hand so i’m also less inclined to put a case on it because i’m not afraid to shatter it in case, i drop It but for a flagship phone that starts at eight hundred dollars. I can understand the apprehension i’m, also a fan of the adaptive 120 hertz refresh rate, which is featured on all three phones so, rather than keeping it at 120 hertz at all times or 60 hertz. At all times, it increases when you’re playing a game or watching videos and then goes back down to a lower refresh rate for things like static web pages. Social media, apps writing emails. Whatever you really don’t need that high refresh rate for and it’s a lot better for battery life too, on the s20 ultra, i would often switch back and forth in the settings between 120 hertz and 60 hertz to preserve battery life.
So it was nice to not have to worry about that and still get a full day’s worth and then some on the s21 ultra okay let’s move on to cameras, like i mentioned before the s21 and s21 plus have a 64 megapixel telephoto lens 12 megapixel ultra Wide lens and a 12 megapixel wide angle lens so it’s the same setup as last year. The s21 ultra is a little different. This time around. It still has a 108 megapixel wide angle lens, but rather than a 48 megapixel telephoto lens samsung replaced it with two 10 megapixel telephoto lenses, which definitely helps with zoom quality, which i’ll get to in just a bit. Both phones also have the same autofocus laser sensor that was introduced in the note 20 ultra after the s20 ultra have that buggy, auto focus issue and the sensor works super. Well, it never struggled to find focus on the subject and i don’t think i really ever had to tap on the screen to adjust it now after spending quite some time, analyzing comparing photos on the new phones versus last year. Phones, samsung did tweak the image processing a little bit. The software is a lot more selective on both s21s, so the photos don’t look overly processed. Instead, it tends to increase saturation on certain aspects of the photo rather than boosting color and sharpening the entire image, which i noticed happened a lot on the s20 ultra almost to the point where it just looked, really unnatural, so the s21 and s21 ultra are a Lot better at knowing, where to add contrast, so the photos don’t, look as flat, but there’s still a nice balance that keeps it looking natural and realistic too.
I also noticed that it leans towards warmer tones and that’s great for those scenic images, but it’s not the best for skin tones. In some of my portrait mode photos, i noticed my skin looked a little bit off because it prioritized saturating the warmer colors of the photo, but speaking of portrait mode. Samsung definitely delivered on improving that 3d analysis which better separates the subject. From the background like it said it would, it launched the s20 and s20 ultra had a tendency to struggle when it came to recognizing exactly where to add blur. So the subject just didn’t look as sharp and there was blur where there really shouldn’t have been, but it’s definitely gotten a lot better. There are times where it still struggles a bit more so on the s21 than on the s21 ultra, but the improvements are super noticeable and, while we’re on the topic of improvements, let’s talk about space zoom, because i can confidently and finally say that samsung figured out How to make it work last year, any photos that you took at a hundred times, zoom on the s20 ultra were grainy and unusable autofocus and stabilization issues didn’t help either this time around. That is certainly not the case. I mean i was genuinely shocked to see how much the clarity and sharpness of photos increased from last year. These photos are actually ones i’d, consider showing to people or posting on social media, which was definitely not the case.
Last year, when i used space zoom. Of course, the new zoom lock feature that samsung introduced with the s21 line, definitely helps with that. With the s20 and s20 ultra there was a targeting grid that appeared whenever you zoomed in at 30 times or more. So that way, you can easily pinpoint what it was that you were taking a photo of, but it was really sensitive. So images would often look a little blurry because it was just really hard to stabilize the shot with the s21 and s21 ultra. The targeting guide. Still appears, but it turns yellow once it locks the subject in a frame and senses that your hand is stable. It also slowly tracks what’s in the viewfinder so that you can capture the photo a lot more precisely now. It definitely works, but with a phone as big as the s21 ultra it’s, still a little bit of a struggle to remain super still, regardless samsung i’ll give it to you. You managed to make this very gimmicky feature that i will never use actually work and work really well and, while we’re on the topic of gimmicks, remember that thing i said about samsung, just piling on features that most people will never use well. Space zoom is one of them, but there’s also director’s view which allows you to preview and switch between each lens when capturing footage okay. So this is director’s view with just the rear cameras, so i can switch between the ultra wide the wide and the telephoto lens.
This specifically is picture in picture, so i can show you what is around me while also filming myself on the front facing so it sort of looks like we’re on video chat, essentially, okay, so the last way to film is in split view. So, instead of having the rear camera up in the corner, you get a wider view of the front facing and also a wider view of the rear camera. But you can’t switch between the different lenses. Here i get it samsung’s just trying to keep up with all the vloggers and content creators. I mean you also have the ability to shoot an 8k on all three phones, so there’s a ton of video features, but if you’re capturing footage for videos, that’ll eventually go up on things like youtube or instagram, then it’s highly likely you’re gon na be using a Dslr and some fancy editing software, not a galaxy s21 ultra. It just feels like a weirdly random feature, that’s super out of place. My next complaint is stylus compatibility. I said this with the note 20 ultra, but i just feel like it’s a very niche market, and i also feel like adding this feature was a little random as well. Considering that the display on the s21 ultra isn’t, any bigger than it was on last year’s model, so yet again, it felt like samsung was just trying to find another feature to pack into the s21 ultra on top of everything else and samsung didn’t send me a Stylus to use but that’s fine, because i wouldn’t have used it anyway.
Basically, with the standard s pen, you can take notes. Edit photos sign documents, all those kinds of things and, with the s pen, pro that’s coming out later, you’ll have the ability to do the more fancy bluetooth connected things like wave it around to trigger certain actions like screenshots or cycle through different camera modes, but it’s Sold separately and seeing as how the s21 ultra doesn’t even have a slot for it, you’ll probably also want to get the case that has that storage on top of what you’re already paying for the ultra so again, it’s just another investment on top of a really Expensive phone, and even after adding all those features, the company decided to take something away too, which is the microsd card slot now i’m, not the type to buy an sd card when i’m running out of storage, but knowing i have the option would make me more Comfortable to go with a lower storage configuration, especially if you know that you’re going to be shooting a lot of video in 4k or even 8k, which tends to take up a lot of storage in addition to shooting with a 108 megapixel sensor. But i guess that’s. What uploading to the cloud is for so for those of you wondering if you should upgrade i’m gon na suggest holding off, unless you really really can’t, i mean these phones are great, but they’re flagships. They should be great and that doesn’t mean they’re worth the high price.
The s21 line for samsung was simply an opportunity to refine features that didn’t work as best as they should have last year. Here’S hoping that next year, we’ll see flagships that are not only affordable but compact, with features that are practical and useful.