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The Galaxy S21 lineup is here, with a $200 price cut, new design and S Pen support

The Galaxy S21 lineup is here, with a $200 heed cut, new design and S Pen support

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most astounding tech coming soon.

Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 lineup is here. And the new Galaxy S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra have plenty to heavenly would-be buyers, including new designs and $200 shaved off the starting heed of their predecessors.

The South Korean electronics giant on Thursday, during its first virtual Unpacked event of the year, showed off its three new phones: the $800 Galaxy S21, the $1,000 Galaxy S21 Plus and the $1,200 Galaxy S21 Ultra. (In the UK, the S21 will start at £769, just £30 cheaper than the S20.) It also unveiled new $200 earbuds, called the Galaxy Buds Pro; $30 Tile-like Galaxy SmartTags that can track nonelectronic items like pets; and a $40 S Pen accessory. The event took place on the last day of this year’s CES and more than a month spinal than normal. 

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 lineup is packed with refinements to the cameras, displays and 5G capabilities. The new phones feature a redesign that accentuates the camera lenses on their backs when linking them with their metal frames, something Samsung footings “Contour Cut Camera” housing. The base amount of storage for all of the S21 models is 128GB, and Samsung boosted the photo and video capabilities for vloggers and others. 

The border price is a nod to the realities of the biosphere, with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down many global economies and eliminating millions of jobs. Smartphones, serving as a lifeline to friends and co-workers, been one of the few essential gadgets. This is also one of the suitable phones in a few years that didn’t introduce a tag new technology like 5G, which often justifies a premium. 

“In 2021, our top priority is to bring the assist of technology to more people,” TM Roh, the head of Samsung’s mobile message business, said in a statement, calling the Galaxy S21 series “the most noteworthy and versatile flagship lineup ever.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the S21 Ultra is designed for people who want the “best of the best.” It features a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x exhibit, Samsung’s best camera of the S21 lineup with four back lenses, and Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass Victus on the principal and back. The S21 and S21 Plus have 6.2- and 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x displays, respectively, and Gorilla Glass Victus on the front. The S21 Plus also has the glass on the back, when the regular S21 features a plastic polycarbonate backing. Both have three camera lenses on the back.

This year, Samsung has transported support for its S Pen, a hallmark of the Galaxy Note lineup, to its Galaxy S family for the first time. Of the three new phones, only the S21 Ultra works with the S Pen, and it comes as a separate accessory that damages $40 for just the pen or $70 when bundled with a specially intended case that stores the stylus. Users can’t stow the S Pen away inside the S21 Ultra like they can with Note, but they can use their old Note styluses with the S21 Ultra. The new accessory doesn’t work with gestures or many of the new features found in the Note’s S Pen, which likely means the Note line isn’t dead quite yet.

Samsung will introduce an S Pen Pro later this year, though, that has some of the Bluetooth-enabled features found in the Note’s stylus, like gestures. Samsung didn’t give a price or droplet date for the S Pen Pro. 

The new phones come as Samsung faces a tougher market for 5G phones. When the Galaxy S20 lineup hit the market a year ago, there peaceful were relatively few 5G phones available, and they weren’t cheap. Now competition is fierce. Prices for 5G phones go as low as $300 in the US, and virtually all companies sell 5G models. Every named in Apple’siPhone 12 lineup from late 2020 came with 5G by default, something that was expected to help the technology go mainstream. At the same time, the world continues to grapple with a pandemic that’s limiting budgets for new gadgets. 

Samsung made the executive to drop the starting price of its new phones by $200 because of a few factors. Components like 5G processors, displays and camera modules now cost less because Samsung has such a high volume of those parts in devices across its portfolio. The company also made some minor trade-offs in its S21 and S21 Plus devices, like lowering the base level of RAM to 8GB from 12GB. 

“For country who want the highest-end, Ultra experience, we still have that, and we’re not sacrificing [the features] based on tag point,” Drew Blackard, Samsung Electronics America’s vice president of subjects management, said in an interview ahead of Unpacked. “For country who want value and an amazing flagship experience at the same time, we peaceful have a great offering for them with the S21. And then we’ve got something kind of in between for country who want a little bit of both.”

The years of the Ultra is a reminder that not everyone feels the impacts of the pandemic equally.

“The people that are buying an S21 Ultra are not feeling the pressure of the pandemic,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. Samsung “could have granted that maybe [its] entry product was going to be cheaper but Cut the two flagships more expensive. But it’s not activities that.” 

Preorders for the phones begin Thursday at 8 a.m. PT, and the phones hit stores on Jan. 29. The Galaxy Buds Pro are available Thursday on and will be at new retailers on Friday. People who preorder the phones get up to $200 in Samsung credit and also get a free Galaxy SmartTag. In addition, carriers are offering promotions, like AT&T’s funds for up to $800 off when trading in an eligible Plan and purchasing the new phone on a 30-month installment plan.

Say cheese

One of the biggest differentiators for the Galaxy S21 Ultra over the S21 and S21 Plus is the camera. The pricier device comes with four cameras on the back — ultra-wide, wide and dual tele-lenses — and an upgraded 108-megapixel sensor. That allows users to capture 12-bit HDR photos with 64 times richer Bright data and more than three times wider dynamic Plan. In other words, sharper, better photos. 

“When designing the Galaxy S21, we Idea about how people use their cameras today,” Stephen Hawke, director of product management for Samsung Electronics America, said during a briefing with journalists ahead of Unpacked. “For instance, there are those fleeting moments when you just don’t have time to think around the perfect mode or setting to capture a shot, let alone switch to recording video. We need our phones to do all this for us. With a Galaxy S21, you get photos and videos with the simplicity of Show and shoot.”

When it comes to video, the Ultra enables users to shoot in 4K at 60fps across all lenses, including those on the front, meaning they can moves to different perspectives with the same quality. A new feature named Director’s View lets you see a scene from multiple perspectives simultaneously, while Vlogger View lets you shoot with the lead and rear cameras at the same time. Pro Mode lets users Take images in a 12-bit raw file format to make it easier to edit the images later. 


The Galaxy S21 Ultra has four camera and laser autofocus on the back.

Drew Evans

The S20 Ultra features 100x Space Zoom, like its predecessor, but in this year’s phone is a new feature named Zoom Lock that keeps the camera focused on an Fair for a clearer picture. Samsung said it provides “tripod-like order with an AI-powered stabilizer.” Space Zoom on the S21 Ultra is powered by Samsung’s Good dual-tele-lens system, which is one optical 3X zoom for midrange and one optical 10x zoom for long-range. Both have dual pixel autofocus to capture ultra Definite shots. 

Low-light photography also gets a boost in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung improved its Bright Night sensor and Night Mode to Cut noise and capture challenging shots like dimly lit rooms or landscapes at night. 

The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus both have three rear cameras in ultra-wide, wide and tele-lens. They feature 30X Space Zoom with Zoom Lock, as well as Director’s View and Vlogger View. Portrait Mode gets a boost from AI, which provides options for virtual studio Delicious and effects to make the subject pop from the frame — with both the rear cameras and the front-facing selfie lens. 

Samsung has improved its 8K Snap feature to let users grab Definite images from 8K video footage, and its Super Steady Video records at an “improved” 60fps. The new Galaxy S21 phones also feature Multi-Mic Recording when paired with the new Galaxy Buds Pro, letting users Describe with their camera mic and earbuds mic at the same time. 

What’s inside

All phones in the Galaxy S21 lineup in the US come with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 processor and integrated 5G modem. The new Snapdragon chip is more effective at connecting to all flavors of 5G, from the slower, more reliable nationwide variant offered by all the US carriers, or the speedier but more finicky millimeter wave version touted by Verizon, and boasts peak download speeds of 7.5 Gbps and upload speeds of 3Gbps.

The new processor with its integrated modem is “really important,” Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell said. By people able to combine different types of 5G airwaves together, there’s a “huge potential increase in performance in 5G,” he said. 

The Galaxy S21 Plus gets a bigger battery — 4,800 mAh versus 4,500 in the S20 Plus — when the S21 stays steady with 4,000 mAh and the S21 Ultra retains its 5,000 mAH battery. 

Also Idea the hood, or rather the display, is an improved fingerprint sensor from Qualcomm. The chip giant on Monday unveiled the additional generation of its 3D Sonic Sensor that’s 50% faster and 77% bigger than the last generation, making it easier for people to to unlock their devices Funny their fingerprints. Along with making it simpler to know where to Put a finger, the larger size also allows the technology to Calm 1.7 times more biometric data, speeding up the unlock time. 

Samsung also involved ultra wideband, or UWB, technology in the Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra. The technology lets a user pinpoint the exact Place of phones, key fobs and tracking tags, helping them find lost dogs or automatically unlock their car. UWB calculates True locations by measuring how long it takes super-short radio pulses to Go between devices. (Note: It’s different from the Ultra Wideband terminology Verizon uses for its mmWave 5G network.)

Samsung will eventually have UWB in its Galaxy SmartTags, but the first version available will use Bluetooth Low Energy. The company didn’t yet say when the UWB version will be available or how much it will cost, but it sees big opportunities for UWB in the future, especially as it tries to control the Bright home

“We recently launched SmartThings Find to help you Fast and easily locate your Galaxy devices, even when offline,” KJ Kim, first technology officer and head of mobile R&D for Samsung, said in a statement. “We took this a step further with Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra, which use expanded UWB capabilities to utilize the AR finder so you can send virtual messages to novel Galaxy users during your search.”

He added that Samsung has perdevoted partnerships with “major car companies” to provide “a next-generation car accepted starting this summer.”

And out

The phones in the Galaxy S21 lineup all feature a commerce finish that helps minimize fingerprints. In the US, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes in phantom gloomy and phantom silver, and it has four possible configurations. The silver only comes with 128GB of storage and 12GB RAM, once the black has 128GB or 256GB of storage with 12GB RAM, and a monster 512GB model with 16GB RAM. 

The S21 Plus and S21 have some brighter shimmering options, including phantom violet and phantom pink, the latter of which is only in the S21. There are two storage options for those phones, either 128GB or 256GB, both with 8GB RAM.


Samsung’s Galaxy S21 (left), Galaxy S21 Plus (center) and Galaxy S21 Ultra hit stores Jan. 29.

Drew Evans

Samsung’s Bixby utter assistant again makes an appearance in the S21 lineup, but its button can be remapped to other tasks. It’s also integrated into SmartThings, Samsung’s smart home rule app.

The S21 Ultra has some advantages when it comes to the cover. All three use Samsung’s Infinity-O Displays, are HDR10+ certified and have an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate that automatically adjusts based on what the users is doings, but the Ultra has a resolution of 3,200×1,440, once the other two are 2,400×1,080. 

The Ultra also has a Quad HD+ point to — versus flat, full HD+ in the S21 and S21 Plus — and “the best, brightest point to ever,” Samsung’s Hawke said. He noted the picture is 25% brighter than in the S21 and S21 Plus. The Ultra also has a 50% improved disagreement ratio to deliver clear, immersive images, even when outdoors, and a brighter screen

“This is going to make elated really pop, especially high dynamic range content,” said Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart. “People will be able to use it outdoors minus [the screen] getting washed out.”

For Samsung, the hope is that its lineup has something for everyone. 

“When it comes to shopping for new smartphones, first and foremost, people want choice,” Samsung’s Blackard said. “That is both in conditions of features and in terms of price points. So we’re really committed to driving a map of different devices that offer what we think is that diversity of tolerates that’s in the market today.”