Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review
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This year, the Galaxy S21 series came earlier than expected and it brought a lot of changes. Galaxy S21 and S21 + now have lower resolution OLEDs, no microSD expansion and no chargers in the box. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is what the original Ultra should have been – packed with advanced features, no stars, no fine prints. Still no charger.
The original S20 Ultra was supposed to be the largest Galaxy to date, but it was not lacking. You could enjoy a 120Hz refresh rate, but only at a lower 1080p resolution. The camcorder was advertised as 5x, but it was actually 4x, and let’s not even start with Space Zoom. The ultrawide camera had a great sensor, but it could not make macro shots due to the lack of autofocus. The battery was large, but the battery life was poor. You understand the point.
Now, the Galaxy S21 Ultra compensates for everything. It has a large 1440p screen with built-in 120Hz support, adapted to it. It also brings two dedicated telephoto snappers – one for 3x and another for 10x optical zoom. Its ultra-wide camera has autofocus, which works for macro shots. The new Ultra also offers ultra-wide band support and surprise, surprise, also S-Pen support. This is supposed to be the first Galaxy Note phone, not the Note that offers it – one for the history books.
There is no S-Pen connector on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, nor is there an included stylus. But you can use any S-Pen that has been in circulation, as well as the recently announced S-Pen for the S21 Ultra and the upcoming S-Pen Pro. Samsung has also opened up the S-Pen to third-party companies that manufacture Wacom-based styluses, so you can expect even more options in the coming months. Finally, you can store the pen in your pocket or choose some S21 Ultra cases with dedicated pen holders.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the only S21 model to come with a 1440p OLED screen, unlike the previous generation. And even better, it now supports 120Hz in the high resolution, so you do not have to choose between high resolution and high refresh rate. This new Ultra monitor also supports Adaptive Refresh Rate, which can range between 10Hz and 120Hz, just like the Note20 Ultra.
Of course, the latest Galaxy carries the latest chipset. All international models use the new Exynos 2100 SoC from Samsung (like the one we review), while the US and China instead get devices running on Snapdragon 888. RAM has been bumped to 12 GB and there is also a limited 16 GB model.
The camera has seen a welcome upgrade. The wide snappers remain relatively the same – a 108MP shooter with f / 1.8 26 mm lens and a 12 MP camera with f / 2.2 13 mm optics, but now it has autofocus. However, the zoom system has been completely modernized – it now has two 10MP cameras, one for 3x optical zoom and another for 10x optical zoom via a 240 mm periscope lens.
Other flagship things worth mentioning – a 40MP selfie eye with AF, stereo speakers, Wi-Fi 6e, 5G connectivity, short-range ultra-broadband support, fast wired and wireless charging for the large 5,000 mAh battery.
However, this year is not a good start for fans of the rich retail bundles. Like Apple and Xiaomi, Samsung has removed chargers and headphones from the retail boxes, supplying only each Galaxy S21 with a cable.
Let’s take a deep dive into the specifications now.
Overview of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G:
- Body: 165.1×75.6×8.9mm, 227g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus), aluminum frame; IP68 dust / water repellent (up to 1.5 m in 30 minutes), Stylus support.
- Screen: 6.80 “Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10 +, 1500 nit (peak), 1440x3200px resolution, 20: 9 aspect ratio, 515ppi; Always on display.
- Chipset (International): Exynos 2100: Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G78 MP14
- Chipset (USA / China): Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 (5 nm): Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4x 0.80 GHz Kryo 680; Adreno 660.
- Memory: 128 GB 12 GB RAM, 256 GB 12 GB RAM, 512 GB 16 GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
- OS / software: Android 11, a user interface 3.1.
- Rear camera: Wide (head): 108 MP, f / 1.8, 24 mm, 1 / 1.33 “, 0.8 ,m, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f / 2.2, 13 mm, 1 / 2.55 “, 1.4 µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video; Telephoto: 10 MP, f / 2.4, 70 mm, 1 / 3.24 “, 1.22 µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom; Telephoto: 10 MP, f / 4.9, 240 mm, 1 / 3.24 “, 1.22 µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10 x optical zoom.
- Front camera: 40 MP, f / 2.2, 26 mm (wide), 1 / 2.8 “, 0.7 ,m, PDAF.
- Video recording: Rear camera: 8K @ 24fps, 4K @ 30 / 60fps, 1080p @ 30/60 / 240fps, 720p @ 960fps, HDR10 +, stereo sound recording, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K @ 30/60 fps, 1080p @ 30 fps.
- Battery: 5000mAh; Fast charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, fast Qi / PMA wireless charging 15W, reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
- Various: Fingerprint reader (during display, ultrasound); Stereo speakers; NFC; FM radio (Snapdragon model only; depending on market / operator); Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), ANT +, Bixby natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified), Ultra Wideband (UWB) support.
The Note10 was the one that pulled the 3.5mm connector back and now the Galaxy S21 pulls the microSD connector back. Samsung compensates for this with a small price difference between 128 GB and 256 GB models – only € 50. However, it is up to you to decide if this compensation is enough.
There are also some omissions this time – inside the retail box.
Unboxing of Galaxy S21 Ultra
Well, well, well, how are the tables turned ?! It was right in October last year that Samsung taunted Apple for not including chargers with the latest iPhones. And just two months later, Samsung was caught scrubbing these jabs from the Internet in preparation for the launch of its own rechargeable flagship.
This is not the first time Samsung has done this, is it? We can still remember how the audio jackpot disappeared overnight and predicted the jack-free Galaxy Note 10.
So the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first Samsung phone to come without a charger or headphones. The manufacturer joins Apple and Xiaomi in an effort to make the planet cleaner, and this should ultimately have a positive impact. It just requires a small sacrifice from you, the user – you need to buy a USB-C charger if you do not own one and keep it for a long time.
The thin Galaxy S21 Ultra box contains a USB C-to-C cable and the phone. That is it.
Pre-orders on the Galaxy S21 include various freebies such as a 25W charger, Galaxy Buds and even a SmartTag, so you are not without options. Samsung switched to USB-C chargers since the Note10 and S20 generations, so the chances of you having one are not that great, and that’s a good thing you can now grab it for free.
Our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also came with a very thin protector, almost invisible actually used at the factory. It’s plastic and will only be good against scratches, but it’s still better than nothing.