This is the galaxy s21 ultra in all black everything and i’ve been using it exclusively for the last few weeks in australia we get the international version, so, for all intents and purposes, this video and my experience with it is with the exynos variant. So if you’re from the us do your own research, because there are differences with the two chips also disclaimer samsung didn’t – send me this phone to test out. I bought this with my own money, so rest assured that these are my honest opinions and actually let’s start by talking money. There’S been a lot of publicity from many youtubers talking about how much cheaper the s series is this year, yeah it’s also true for us. Aussies, but it was a much more modest reduction for us dropping from 2 000 australian dollars down to 1 850, so about 150 australian dollar difference, which is still decent don’t, get me wrong, but certainly not as big as a 200 us dollar drop, which would have Been really welcome, especially since this is at a base, 128 gigs without any expandable storage. So ultimately, this is still a very expensive phone and it’s got a lot to live up to now. Let’S get one thing very clear if you don’t, like big phones, look elsewhere. This phone isn’t for you, because it is huge, i mean look at it – it’s got a huge screen and that fancy integrated camera hump to hold all this hardware adds even more size to the footprint.
But if you don’t mind bigger phones or if you like me, you actually prefer them and the s21 ultra is awesome. So let’s start with the outside it’s a huge glass and aluminium sandwich and it oozes quality. I also love this matte finish trend we’re, seeing with flagship phones. We even see it with the pro versions of the iphones. This black color is awesome too it’s, so dark, so stealthy feels great to the touch, and it really does a good job keeping fingerprints at bay. Also that subtle change in texture. When you rub your finger over the samsung logo just gives you an idea of how much attention to detail they’ve gone into doing this. The sides, unfortunately, are still a polished, aluminium and i still wish they did a brushed finish instead, mainly for that full matte look, but it still feels nice to hold it’s, got a subtle curve that blends in with the rear glass and combine it with the ultra’s Thickness, it actually is still pretty comfortable to hold, even despite its huge footprint, my hands aren’t, the biggest so sometimes with prolonged use with one hand, i do feel a little bit of fatigue, so you have to make sure you give it a go in first person To get an idea, if you can actually live with it, it’ll definitely suit those with bigger hands better and honestly it’s actually still smaller than the massive iphone 12 pro max. So that says a lot now.
What also makes the s29 ultra look bigger is that camera hump i mean after seeing the leaks, i was super skeptical. I thought it looked really silly, but in real life i’m a fan and can i just say wow, these cameras are huge. I mean these circles and humps are some of the biggest i’ve seen for a long time. I mean check out that falloff it’s as deep as the grand canyon and as per usual. I would have much preferred if samsung used that slightly bit of extra space to put a slightly bigger battery in there and so the reeve surface becomes flat. But then we’ve got the display and wow i mean we know. Samsung are the kings of smartphone displays, but what a difference a year makes with last year’s s20 ultra. We were limited to 1440p at 60hz or step down to 1080p to use it at a full 120.. This time around, we get the whole sheback 1440p christmas at full 120hz and to top it off it’s an ltpo screen, meaning it’ll smartly throttle down depending on the content. So if it doesn’t need that buttery, smooth scrolling, it’ll slow it all down and save you some battery life and so far it works seamlessly. I haven’t noticed a single moment where it throttled down unnecessarily and the whole experience has been so clean and so smooth. So much so that i can confidently say this is easily the best screen i’ve ever used and seen on a phone today, and this is even in spite of it having a slightly curved edge, something that i really wish all manufacturers just stopped guys just stop please.
So for the screen, the colors are bright, they’re, accurate, the blacks are deep and the screen gets super bright, 1 500 nits worth of brightness. Even so, even in the brightest and harshest of australian days, it’s crystal clear and visible plus it gets nice and dark too. So if you’re a late night twitter feed scroller like i am that’s great and i haven’t seen any of that horrible green tinting at lower brightnesses – that i saw from my s20 ultra from last year, so that’s a major relief so overall, a big, a plus for The display next performance, the model i’ve got – is 256 gigs with 12 gigs of ram with the exynos chip and as we’ve already seen. Snapdragon versus exynos is a contentious issue, especially given how big the gap was. Last year now i don’t have a snapdragon version to compare it to, but from what i can gather from different videos from different youtubers performance seems to be a bit hit and miss, and they both trade blows and on balance for most people, they’re pretty equal. Some videos show exynos to be better some showing snapdragon to be better either way they seem pretty even. But what i can say, though, is that, from my experience, my s21 ultra has, on the whole performed brilliantly for almost all tasks thrown at it, whether it’s playing games, editing, photos watching youtube or browsing the web. This ultra flies and on the whole has been a really solid experience.
The 12 gigs of ram has enabled memory management to be top notch as well, and you’ve still got the option to keep a few apps constantly open gone are the quirky days of samsung’s software jank, thank god, but there is one glaring issue with the ultra and It’S because it’s lit not because it’s a great phone but because it literally is lit like physically on fire lit now i’m, not sure if it’s just my model or an exynos thing, but this phone really heats up, especially when you really start pushing it. The heat typically comes from around the camera module at the top and that’s, where i assume the exynos chip also lives, and i don’t have a thermal camera to measure these temperatures scientifically, but i did find the foam would get quite uncomfortable to hold almost to the Point of causing pain – if you touch that spot long enough, especially after pushing it with intensive gaming, photo editing, rendering video or even simply shooting video. Plus there were some times where this hate did actually affect performance, again, nothing scientific, but when the heat starts building and you sustain it for long periods, my phone definitely seemed to get a little laggier and choppier, occasionally seeing some lag flipping through insta stories and a Little bit of jerkiness when actually shooting video, almost to the point of actually affecting the recording itself, i mean check out this video it’s, not the most ideal shooting scenario, but it gives you an idea of what happens when you really push it it’s taken indoors without Optimal lighting and electronic stabilization turned on and you can see the jitters and stuttering exhibited and, at this point of shooting the phone was fiery hot, having shot a bunch of video before it.
The only way that i could mitigate this was to actually turn off electronic stabilization, presumably because it uses quite a bit of computational power to do so. There is a little bit of a sacrifice needed to be made, but fortunately with other aspects of performance. There’S no issue to start with the in display fingerprint sensor is bigger and way more responsive compared to the s20. In fact, it’s almost as fast as the old touch ids of old and then you’ve got samsung’s ui. One ui running android 11 performs brilliantly and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite versions of android and it’s. Just a really familiar place now, you’ve got a good amount of customizability and it’s really easy to use, especially if you’re willing to go a little bit further with good luck, which is a suite of modules that allow you to customize things from your home screen to Theming, your phone to changing the appearance of your lock screen, i think it’s pretty decent in one ui’s, one handed optimization, is still very suited to the whole navigation experience that you see these days plus the addition of google feed to the home screen now is my Low key favorite feature of the whole ui i’ll be honest. I dabbled very quickly with samsung free. It showed some irrelevant news gave me some suggestions for games that i’ll never play, and then i quickly switched back over to the google feed. Sorry samsung keep trying, though, and did i mention bixby no, i didn’t well that’s because i’ve yet to actually use it because let’s be honest, there’s no need to and it’s not obtrusive about it either the dedicated button is gone and the long press of the power Button can be set to do just that control the power end of so yes, short, burst peak performance wise, the exynos is excellent.
If the majority of the time most people won’t see a major impact on daily use and performance, but i do have to be honest that the heat management does have me a little worried not only for sustained performance but for actual longevity of the chip itself. I mean you have to wonder if it’ll damage the chip long term with such a prolonged exposure to heat, but i guess time will tell now speaking of time. Let’S talk battery life. The s21 ultra like last year’s s20, has a 5 000 milliamp unit. That can both fast charge and give reverse wireless charging features that we assume will become standard nowadays. Battery life, however, has been anything but standard now, i’m, not sure what the go is, but i’ve had wildly inconsistent days of longevity from 67 hours of solid screen on time to barely scraping four hours and in those days there weren’t any variations to my usage patterns. There was still plenty of social media youtube lightroom and taking a billion photos of my dog frankie, and you know perhaps this will stabilize further after i use it for a little bit longer but we’ll see. But what i can say is that it’ll confidently last a full day majority of the time. So, yes, if you constantly smash it with video, recording and photography, you’ll kill it before the end of the day, but for most normal use, it’s going to be perfectly fine, and now speaking of video, recording and photography, let’s talk about.
Arguably the most important component of the phone, the cameras now pay attention. This is a quad camera behemoth that has a 12 megapixel ultra wide, a 108 megapixel standard, wide, a 10 megapixel three times optical zoom and finally, a 10 megapixel optically stabilized 10 times periscope telephoto zoom. This is compared to last year’s, which went from the standard wide straight to 10 times the zoom missing that in between focal length, so everything between standard and 10 times was just a little bit of a digital mess. So fortunately, samsung’s call to include a native three time. Zoom i feel is spot on and zoom is way more useful. I remember i’d actively avoid using zoom in the s20, because these photos never looked right, but now i use both telephoto options way more and feel so more inspired to use the 10 time zoom as well, purely because i’ve got faith that the zooming capabilities will get Me good usable photos compared to last year’s photos the three times: zoom quality is night and day it’s crisp and color, accurate with great detail and sure it’s much better in daylight, but it’s still more than usable in low light, because it’s optically stabilized now the 10 Times periscope zoom is a little funny. One it’s great and at least for social media is more than usable. In fact, i found it very useful to shoot photos of my dog frankie frolicking, with his mates at the dog park.
Again, you’re not going to rely on it for professional massive prints, but they do a decent job for social media. Now these improvements don’t just stop at the telephoto lenses, because the main camera system is way more reliable too. So, with the s20 ultra focusing performance was a real issue with that standard wide camera this year, with the assistance of a laser focusing camera performance has been top notch with super accurate and zippy performance to lock on and the photos from that, 108 megapixel sensor are Classic samsung, one of the best it’s got a great deal of contrast and saturation with a pleasing balance of dynamic range and detail. Yes, there’s still a slight element of artificial noise reduction and sharpening even with the scene. Optimizer turned off, but i’ve grown to really like the photos that the galaxy’s produced in recent years – and this is ultra ride – is excellent too, but as you’ve probably seen, it’s just not quite as wide as the standard s21s or in fact the iphones. But despite that, though, details and colors are reproduced really well and they’ve, improved optical performance, too, being pretty sharp all the way across the frame. Now, admittedly, it does lack optical stabilization, but at least you’ve got night mode that works with all focal lengths and as you’d expect it works well now. What also works pretty well, too, is portrait mode. These cameras do a great job at detecting edges, but if they could improve on one thing, it’s actually simulating depth right now, it’s got the effect of just applying a flat blur across the background and that’s it iphones and even google pixels give off a much more Realistic progression of blur the further you go into the background now, once samsung nails that it’ll be one of the best, then you’ve got the selfie camera, which is still one of my favorites thanks to its autofocus, and why no other flagship doesn’t have.
This is beyond me, but there’s still something i can’t put my finger on about the processing that makes me feel and look a little softer than other phones like the pixel and the iphone. But then, when you zoom in all the details, are there now let’s talk about video? The s21 ultra goes from 1080p to 40 frames, all the way up to 8k 24 frames, which on paper, is really decent. An odd quirk i found, though, is that in the default settings you’re only limited to shooting in 30 or 60 frames per second, you need to use the pro video mode to access the cinematic 24 frame goodness, but with that said, though, video quality is pretty excellent Across the board, with great stabilization and picture quality across all focal lengths, and then the inbuilt pro mode is really awesome for those who want to have a lot of control over different settings like shutter, speed, iso and even the microphone settings too, you can even plug In an external mic and control the levels with that as well, it really is built to be a really great content creation tool. But i got ta say from a reliability standpoint. It still doesn’t quite compete with the iphone which, for me at least remains video king plus, as mentioned before, it does seem to struggle at times with electronic stabilization turned on. So perhaps this little quirk can be fixed with a software update but it’s still not a great look, but that issue aside the s21 ultra’s video capabilities are one of the best, but not quite taking the crown yet.
But my god are samsung getting close, and this really is the story of the s21 ultra samsung are getting so damn close to producing the perfect phone they fixed. All the major problems with the last version and the overall package is awesome. It’S got excellent cameras. It’S got a best in class screen awesome battery life, stunning design language, especially with that matte finish and it’s a little bit cheaper as well. It’S got a few small niggles with its heat management and a couple of quirks with its camera performance and yeah. That puts a slight down on the whole experience, but truth be told if someone asked me straight up if they should buy the s21 ultra because they can afford it. I’D say yeah, but maybe after they first consider the s21, because that’s got almost equivalent performance, with the only tangible difference being the periscope telephoto zoom and plastic build, but if you need the best well, this is as close as going to get this year. Let me know what you guys think of the s21 ultra in the comments below what other flagships.