Following an underwhelming last year with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a flagship that not only looks to amend but also set a standard in the mobile industry. It comes with a refined ‘Contour Cut Camera Design’ that oozes class but also makes the device feel great in the hand despite its 227 g weight and 8.9 mm thickness. Samsung has not only concealed the smartphone’s camera bump but has also made one of the most attractive smartphones on the market, especially with its Phantom Black color finish. You also find the smartphone reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides and full IP68 water and dust certification. Besides an otherwise perfect hardware combination, the Galaxy S21 Ultra misses out on microSD card expansion, a feature that was staple to Samsung flagships in the past.
Like the years before, the Galaxy S21 Ultra continues the trend of an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor for biometric authentication. It is not only faster but also more responsive thanks to its slightly larger area. But more important is the O-Dot Infinity Display on the smartphone, this year at 6.8-inches. The O-Dot houses the 40MP selfie camera surrounded by a 3,200 x 1,440 WQHD+ resolution panel. The Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen offers an 88.9 per-cent screen-to-body ratio with a refresh rate ranging from 10-120Hz depending on the content you are viewing. Being able to use both a WQHD+ resolution and the 120Hz refresh rate simultaneously is a welcome feature for multitasking and content consumption. The latter is also helped by the display’s slightly curved panel, a characteristic that helps with immersion. Contrast levels, display brightness at a peak 1,500 nits and the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s stereo speakers further bolster that experience.
Power and OS
One of the biggest talking points about the Galaxy S21 Ultra though is its new octa-core processor. The Exynos 2100 is built on a 5 nm process accompanied by the Mali-G78- MP14 GPU. Both the CPU and GPU in combination makes the user experience on the Galaxy S21 Ultra feel snappy and responsive. Samsung’s One UI 3.1 software on top of Android 11 is smooth, but also provides neat hardware and software features. In fact, one that we particularly liked was the ability to have the suite of Galaxy Note features we know and love on the Galaxy S-series. This year, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s display supports the S-Pen meaning you can use it just like a Galaxy Note series smartphone, with the S-Pen sold separately.
Other software includes multi-window and DeX for a rich multitasking experience that is not hindered by the hardware on the smartphone, going up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of in-built storage. Even for avid gamers, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a viable option. However, during strenuous multitasking, gaming and camera operation, the smartphone unusually heats up near the camera region. Over usage, the heating reduces however it is worth a mention, and perhaps can be rectified with future software support from Samsung.
All about that camera
Speaking of the camera and software support, this is a big part of the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s imaging experience. You find a quad-camera setup on the smartphone, comprised of a 108MP f/2.2 wide, a 10MP f/4.9 telephoto, another 10MP f/2.4 telephoto and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor. Firstly, the auto-focus (AF) issues from last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra have been fixed with a dedicated Laser AF unit. However, Samsung has also bundled a ‘Focus enhancer’ feature on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, a software tweak that helps users take better close-up and macro images assisted by the smartphone’s ultra-wide lens. This aside, the dual-telephoto configuration on the Galaxy S21 Ultra lets you take improved zoom shots. With a dedicated lens for up to 3x optical and 10x optical zoom respectively, pictures are sharper and more consistent. You can also zoom in up to 100x, however in this case, picture quality will significantly degrade. Given the consistency of all the camera units of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, you can use them for 4K 60 fps video capture. This year, it is available via all the smartphone’s lenses, an upgrade over last year. And to take things one step further, you can also film at 8K 24 fps resolution using the wide lens.
Features such as an improved Single Shot, Portrait Mode, better night-time processing or Director’s View, where you can film video using all of the smartphone’s lenses simultaneously are great to have, making the camera package on the Galaxy S21 Ultra all-rounded both from both a software and hardware perspective. Not just with its primary camera though, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is capable of great pictures with its selfie shooter. This year, Samsung also allows users to change processing modes between ‘Natural’ and ‘Bright’ in their selfies, a feature that is incredibly useful depending on the user’s preference.
For a detailed look at the camera and camera samples of the Samsung S21 Ultra, please click here.
Battery and Charging
Capping off one of the most powerful smartphone experiences available, you find a 5,000mAh battery to run the show. With it, you get up to 8 hours of screen-on time on a moderate day, with it dropping to 6 hours with heavy 5G and camera usage. This is excellent given the smartphone delivers these numbers without restrictions in performance or display resolution. For added flexibility, you find options to wirelessly charge the battery and for reverse wireless charging at 15W and 4.5W respectively. Considering the competition, Samsung’s 25W wired charging capacity is a bit slower but can still deliver a fully charged battery in 1 hour and 10 minutes. Unfortunately, users will have to buy a charger for the Galaxy S21 Ultra separately if required, as one is not included out of the box this year.
On the overall, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a worthy upgrade. It irons out all of it predecessor’s flaws and makes a case for a compelling flagship smartphone experience. It is a redemption masterclass that only Samsung can execute, and this year, the South Korean manufacturer has done it well. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is currently available to pre-order starting at Dh4,899, bundled with Galaxy Buds Pro, SmartTag and 1 Year Samsung Care+ worth up to Dh1,147.
If you’re looking for a more detailed review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, please find the longer version here.