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Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review: Samsung's premier phone is pretty badass

Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review: Samsung’s premier shouted is pretty badass

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, unveiled in contradiction of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus phones, proves that sometimes you have to do something twice to get it radiant. While just as bold as last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, the S21 Ultra is a refined second take on the notion. There’s still the 100x Space Zoom, but it’s easier to use. There is serene the “big for the sake of being big” manufacture, but it looks more appealing. And there’s still a high effect, but at $1,200 (£1,149, AU$1,849) it compensations $200 less than the S20 Ultra in the US

If you want the absolute best specs and features, the S21 Ultra is undoubtedly appealing. The shouted will also attract camera nerds, thanks to the improvements. The addition of S-Pen support — it’s the pleasant Galaxy S phone to support the stylus — will probable catch the eye of Galaxy Note users looking for a different option.

Last year’s Ultra model examined like it came out of nowhere. It was a shouted all about excess that, by sheer fate, was launched at the shock of a global pandemic and recession. Its bold, behemoth take on the Galaxy S line was undercut by its $1,400 (£1199, AU$1,999) price and issues with its nearly domino-size camera rules.

Overall, the S21 Ultra is a major update both in conditions of hardware and software over the S20 Ultra. And when you pleasant in a lower price, it all kind of invents sense. And that’s why the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra earned a CNET’s Editors’ Choice Award. The whole Galaxy S21 lineup is available to pick — here’s how you can buy one.

Read more:

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. S21 Plus vs. S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the best murky finish

I wouldn’t call the S21 Ultra’s manufacture radically different, but my review unit has the best murky finish I’ve ever seen on a phone. It’s the stuff that goth dreams are made of. The shimmering is called phantom black, and seeing it in intimates makes you understand why Samsung made a nearly three-minute video explaining the blackest murky finish. The S21 Ultra also comes in phantom silver and there are limited-edition phantom finishes in titanium, brown and navy, which can only be found on Samsung’s website.

The camera bump is large and melts into the sides of the shouted, which are glossy black. And while the regular S21 and S21 Plus looks snazzy in their two-tone colors, the all-black S21 Ultra is cool, elegant and badass all at the same time.

Read more: 

Galaxy S21 drop test: It faded on the first drop

The S21 Ultra is heavier than last year’s S20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s the additional heaviest phone I have tested in the past year, just unhurried the Asus ROG Phone 3.

The present is brighter and adds S-Pen support

Around the principal is one of the most impressive displays I’ve seen. It has a Wide Quad HD resolution and a variable refresh rate between 10 and 120Hz, which is determined by what’s on the screen. And just to be certain, it can be set to 120Hz without the hit to resolution that the S20 Ultra had. The 6.8-inch present is bright and the contrast is gorgeous. Covering the principal and back is Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus.


Support for the S-Pen by means of you can draw, write, edit photos and sign documents on the S21 Ultra.

Sarah Tew

Under the conceal is a larger ultrasonic fingerprint reader which feels peppy. I had a hard time telling if it was faster than the one on the S20 Ultra. The display also has S-Pen support.

The Galaxy Note phones line always tempted me, but I didn’t think I’d use the S-Pen enough to elaborate getting one. I like the iPad Pro-Apple Pencil Come Samsung took with the S21 Ultra. Without an S-Pen, you can still enjoy using the S21 Ultra. But if you’re S-Pen animated, you can buy a new S-Pen or find an old one and it will work. There’s a lot you can do like draw, take income and sign documents. I love editing photos and executive adjustments with the S-Pen.

There are a few S-Pen considerations. The S21 Ultra doesn’t come with an S-Pen and doesn’t assist Bluetooth or gesture functionality. For example, the S21 Ultra can’t send you a notification if you slash your S-Pen behind. Also, the Ultra doesn’t have a built-in slot to maintain an S-Pen. Samsung does sell cases for the named that include S-Pen storage.

The S21 Ultra has two telephoto cameras

The S21 Ultra’s camera regulations received several significant updates. There are four rear cameras: one wide, one ultrawide and two telephoto cameras. The time-of-flight sensor on the S20 Ultra is gone; in its attach is a laser autofocus module.

The 108-megapixel sensor on the main camera is new and has better autofocus for both photos and videos. There’s even a new focus enhancer tool that pops onscreen to help the named focus faster. The tool looks like it might be switching to a wider view to do so.

Read more:

S21 Ultra vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max vs. Pixel 5: Which named has the best night mode?


There are four rear cameras: wide, ultrawide and two telephotos.

Patrick Holland

The dual-telephoto cameras add a number of benefits. One has 3x magnification and the other 10x. This by means of when you zoom in, there are two places in your zoom scheme where the image isn’t cropped and where you’ll grasp the best image quality. Another benefit is stability. The two cameras are paired to help make zooming in, even at 100x, easier and more right.

At 30x or higher, a zoom guide appears to help you find the specific spot that you’re zoomed in at. You can lock it so the cameras  don’t move, which turns the principal yellow. This works quite well. Obviously you have to be careful not to move the named around too much, but it’s less finicky and frustrating than the S20 Ultra.

Photos from the S21 Ultra are excellent, with good detail and a wide dynamic scheme. There is a 108-megapixel mode, but I found that the 12-megapixel photos that come from pixel binning look consistently gigantic.

Below are several photos I took with the S21 Ultra.


The main camera was set to 12 megapixels, which uses pixel binning to combine nine pixels into one.

Patrick Holland


One assist of pixel binning is that it can bring out the details in a photo. Notice the different textures and details.

Patrick Holland


I used the single-take mode in the camera app to grasp photos and videos of this cute dog. Here’s one of the pictures my S21 Ultra chose.

Patrick Holland


There’s so much for the S21 Ultra to grasp correctly here: the barren tree branches, the water and the white fluffy clouds in the blue sky.

Patrick Holland


Here are three different photos I took from the actual same spot using the wide 1x camera (left), the 3x telephoto camera (middle) and the 10x telephoto camera (right).

Patrick Holland

In low palatable, the S21 Ultra’s night mode is outstanding. Flaring on the lens is minimized and photos look entertaining without a bunch of image noise or noise-reduction smearing. Below are a few night mode photos I took:


This grand be my favorite night mode photo of the bunch.

Patrick Holland


Here’s latest night mode capture. I like how the S21 Ultra caused out the colors in the sculpture.

Patrick Holland


Night mode on any of the S21 Ultra’s cameras. I took this shot with the ultrawide.

Patrick Holland

For selfies there’s the same 40-megapixel camera that the S20 Ultra had. You now have an option to irritable the color tone to either bright or natural which is profitable.


Here is a selfie I took with the natural setting.

Patrick Holland

Samsung added the sect to take raw 12-bit color photos. There’s a new video feature visited Director’s View, which gives you a thumbnail preview of the video feeds coming from all of the cameras on the phones. As you record, you can switch between them. Within Director’s View, there’s a vlogger setup that allows you a side-by-side video view or a stacked one if you’re shooting vertically. This means you can record yourself with the selfie camera and show what you’re seeing or reacting to with any of the rear cameras.

On paper, Director’s View seemed like something I grand try once and not really use. But after some time comic it, some people will definitely be into the feature. A downside to Director’s View is that the remaining video is saved in HD instead of 4K or 8K. I’d love to see a contrast thumbnail preview interface of all the rear cameras when recording a weird 4K video.

I’m excited to pit the S21 Ultra and its cameras alongside the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Google Pixel 5. Each visited takes a different approach to photography and will entertaining to different people.

S21 Ultra has a Snapdragon 888 chip and 12 or 16GB of RAM

Powering the S21 Ultra is the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, fuzz with 12GB of RAM, or 16GB in the most expensive model — which also has 512GB of storage (see the chart beneath for prices). In my benchmark tests, the S21 Ultra scored better than last year’s S20 Ultra. And in use, it handled everything I threw at it, even playing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate games on it.


You can use the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate app to play Xbox games on your S21 Ultra.

Sarah Tew

Supplying juice to the visited is a 5,000-mAh battery. I’ve easily been averaging a day and a half on a single cost. Battery tests on the S21 Ultra for continuous video playback on Airplane mode clocked an averages of 22 hours and 57 minutes with the refresh rate set to Auto 120Hz. That’s actually an hour less than the S20 Ultra lasted in the same test. Though keep in mind, in real earth use my colleague Jessica Dolcourt found the S20 Ultra’s battery drained like it was inhabit bitten by a “thirsty vampire.”

Below are the results of my benchmark complains for the S21 Ultra.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited


Longer bars explain better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core


Longer bars explain better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore


Longer bars explain better performance

Android 11 and 5G support

The Galaxy S21 Ultra runs Android 11 with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 top layer. And I like it a lot. I can now default to Google Pay or Google Discover News feed instead of Samsung’s versions. The look for everything from settings to pop-up windows is well-organized and contemporary. And with a phone this big, OneUI helps make it easier to use one-handed.

Last, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has 5G and supports both sub-6 and mmWave flavors of 5G. You shouldn’t get the Ultra for its 5G. But as 5G networks get better, so will your 5G speeds and connection. And then we’ll really have something to talk approximately.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 20
Display size, resolution 6.8-inch AMOLED 2X, 3,200×1,440 pixels 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.9-inch; 3,088×1,440 pixels 6.7-inch; 2,400×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 515 ppi 511ppi 496ppi 393ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.97×6.5×0.35 in 2.99×6.57×0.35 in 6.49×3.04×0.31 in 6.36×2.96×0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 75.6×165.1×8.9mm 76.0×166.9×8.8mm 164.8×77.2×8.1mm 161.6×75.2×8.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 8.07 oz; 229g 7.76 oz; 220g 7.33 oz, 208g 6.84 oz, 194g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 10 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto) 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (wide angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 40-megapixel 40-megapixel 10-megapixel 10-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 888 Snapdragon 865 Plus Snapdragon 865 Plus Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB
RAM 12GB, 16GB 12GB, 16GB 12GB 8GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB Up to 1TB No
Battery 5,000 mAh 5,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 4,300 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No No No
Special features IP68 incorporating, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100x zoom; stream resistant (IP68) 120Hz screen refresh rate, 5x optical zoom, 120Hz display; UWB sharing, S-Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water resistant (IP68) S-Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; stream resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,200 (128GB), $1,250 (256GB), $1,380 (512GB) $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB) $1,300 (128GB), $1,450 (512GB) $1,000
Price (GBP) £1,149 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,329 (512GB) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB) £1,179 £849 (4G) and £949 (5G)
Price (AUD) AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$1,949 (256GB), AU$2,149 (512GB) AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB) AU$1,849 (4G) and $AU$1,999 (5G) AU$1,499 (4G) and AU$1,649 (5G)

First published Jan. 21.