Galaxy S21 Ultra Detailed First Impressions and Review
So, the South Korean tech giant, Samsung has launched its latest smartphone series, the Galaxy S21 series with 3 smartphones, S21, S21 Plus and S21 Ultra in the line up. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, a complete camera beast with some unimaginable zoom capabilities possesses the latest Exynos 5nm 2100 chipset which rivals the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (latest) in performance. In the regions of North America, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is released with the Snapdragon 888 though. There have been some major changes both in terms of smartphone UI and box contents. Let’s see what they are.
So you are only getting a USB type-C cable, sim tray ejector tool and the big dog, the Galaxy S21 Ultra with Ultra specs. There is no case provided.
First thing you will notice while taking a look at the box is how thin it is. In spite of making fun of Apple, Samsung has now begun to follow Apple’s lead and has stopped providing power brick and earphones with the box. Removing the plastic coating on the back of the phone, you get to see the Galaxy S21 Ultra glass back with a stunning matte finish if you are going for the Phantom Black. Well I would rather go for the Phantom Silver with a frosted matte back. The phone packs a massive camera module at the top left.
How Strong and Stunning is the Build?
Picking up the phone, the Galaxy S21 Ultra feels a bit denser and thicker than the last year’s S20 Ultra. On the right is the power button and the volume rocker, the bottom has a USB port, speaker grill and sim tray. The sim tray is dual sim and supports all the 5G networks with good connectivity, thanks to the new Exynos 2100 chipset. The matte finish on the Phantom Black keeps smudges and finger prints away retaining the premium looks and feel of the device.
The smartphone is protected on the front and back by the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus which is the toughest glass that has ever been used in any smartphone. But the toughest screen in the world is the one that is used in the Apple iPhone 12 series. Their ceramic shield is the most durable whereas the Gorilla Glass Victus is the most scratch resistant. Yes that’s the same glass on the Note 20 Ultra, S20 series and Xiaomi Mi 11. It is also IP68 water resistant.
How’s the Multimedia experience?
The display is one of the best parts of this device and is one of the nicest that any phone has ever offered. You are getting a 6.8 inches WQHD+(2K) display. In the settings for motion smoothness you can find an Adaptive Refresh rate option which will dynamically scale between 10Hz and 120Hz. You can also set it to the standard settings where you get a longer battery life with 60Hz refresh rate. Note that the Refresh rate can not be set to 120Hz for every task you do. It will automatically change according to the tasks performed meaning that you can not really feel the 120Hz always. However, the display can run QHD+ with 120Hz refresh rate. This is a upgrade on the Galaxy S20 Ultra which does not have this capability.
Brightness has been increased up to 25% on the Galaxy S21 Ultra and if you are watching content in very bright conditions then the display will automatically switch to 1500 nits peak brightness. Viewing angles are awesome too. Jumping back to the display settings, there is a new feature added called the Eye comfort shield which is a step further than the usual blue light filters which will reduce the blue light according to the ambient light and the time of day.
You have a got a curved display on the S21 Ultra while the displays on the S21 and S21 Plus are flat. Tell me down in the comments which one do you prefer.
Has the Performance and UI improved?
For years the Qualcomm Snapdragon processors have been leading the market of chipsets. However, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with its new Exynos 2100 chipset which is build on 5nm technology and is also a lot better than the Exynos 990. The competition is tough between the two chipsets, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC and also the Exynos 2100 SoC.
It runs Android 11 out of the box and has Samsung’s latest One UI 3.1 on top. The UI experience is great and really smooth, as expected. Gaming is really exciting and enjoyable on its large display and the ultra-smooth performance without any lags, frame drops or heat issues either.
What’s so striking about the cameras?
So here you are getting a 108MP primary sensor, a 12MP Ultra-wide angle lens with FOV 120 degrees and two telephoto lens. The 108MP sensor captures 12-bit HDR with 6 times more rich color data and also the shots contain three times the Dynamic range than that on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Also there is a 12-bit RAW file option in the Pro-Mode of the Camera App. The 2 telephoto lens are there for a reason. One zooms 3x while the other zooms 10x. You are also getting 100x space zoom. At the maximum zoom, though the quality is a bit compromised the details are understandable and decent. Reading fonts on a distant tower might be easy for you with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. There is a 40MP selfie shooter at the front.
But the good news being that the S21 Ultra does have a macro sensor, a fairly invisible macro sensor. Yes, you read it right, the camera set-up is literally Penta instead of the quad camera set-up. Now how?? Well the 12MP Ultra-wide angle sensor has a Dual Pixel AF (Auto Focus) meaning that when you take your phone too close to the subject the camera detects it and turns itself into a Macro camera. The advantage of this being that instead of getting a 2MP or 5MP Macro camera, a 12MP Macro camera is provided meaning that they capture better stills. There is also laser Auto Focus sensor. And that’s pretty much it, you are getting all you need in the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The camera records 8K@24 fps. There is also a 8K video snap option which lets you capture amazing high-res images from the video. So you do not have to choose between shooting video or capturing stills. On the bottom right side of the module you see some empty space and you wonder as to why Samsung didn’t fill up the space with a macro sensor; well that’s because the telescope lens fill up the space behind the module and leaves no more space. Any bigger camera module will be awkward, be it any design though I pretty much liked the design.
There are a couple of cool software video features including Vlogger’s view where the phone records with both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. Well, many companies had this long before but its good to see it this year. There is also a another Director’s mode which lets you preview all the three lenses at the same time. This lets you switch very easily between lenses if you want while recording videos as you can see how they will look when taken from different lenses. Well, the functionalities of this feature is limited but we cannot blame them for a new feature. Another cool and yet useful feature is the Single Take 2.0. Just a before, the phone captures multiple videos and photos at the same time and uses AI to produce the best looking shots.
Is the Storage no more Expandable?
Sadly enough the S21 series does not have a microSD card support and the storage is no longer expandable as it issued to be on Samsung. So you get the 128GB, 256GB and 512 gigs of storage at the top of the pyramid. While the S21 and S21 Plus come with 8GB RAM for the base variant, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with 12 gigs of RAM for its 128GB and 256GB variant. The 512GB option comes with 16GB of fast memory. So, that’s a lot to trade for the extra storage. Well the loss of expandable storage can be greatly felt where the S20 Ultra supports 1TB external storage providing about 1.5 Terabytes of storage on your device, the Galaxy S21 Ultra limits you to just 512GB.
Well that felt like a bit of a downgrade. The 1.5 TB storage on the Galaxy S20 Ultra did feel “Ultra”. While Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra records 8K@24fps, you might be curious to know how much would that file measure. As a matter of fact, a 3 hour long 8K video can fill up every bit of space on your device. Well, that’s assuming you have got no apps, no music and no photos on your phone. Now don’t get offended by this fact because Samsung has done it lately while all the competitors like the Xiaomi Mi 11 or the iPhone 12 series smartphones ditched it much before. Also the company has priced the 256GB variant at just 50$ extra than the 128GB variant. Most of the companies are charging 100$ for this upgrade.
How Long does the Battery Last?
The Galaxy S21 Ultra packs a 5000mAh large battery which is a 500mAh extra on the Note 20 Ultra and same sized as that on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. With the new efficient chipset, adaptive refresh rate the phone is easily expected to last up to 2 days.
The charger has been removed from the box and you get the usual 25W fast charging, 15W fast wireless charging options and reverse charging for charging your Galaxy Buds Pro. Samsung are you kidding me? 25W fast charging; am I living in the 1980s. Well before you give this expression think twice because the phone is so well optimized that 25W charger charges the phone pretty fast than in ordinary 25W charging scenarios.
How’s the Connectivity?
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra supports Wi-fi 6E which can deliver much faster speeds when you have a Wi-fi 6E compatible router. The Exynos 2100 chipset has an integrated X60 modem which is capable of carrier aggregation resulting in higher peak speeds. The S21 Ultra has Ultra-WideBand (UWB) which makes it much easier to share files with other UWB devices like the Galaxy S21+
Is the sound quality refreshing?
You are getting stereo speakers on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, one on the top and the other at the bottom. The company no longer provides AKG ear phones in the box which is justified because, they have cut costs too and have also made an amazing offer that they are giving the Galaxy Buds Pro for free to every customer who pre-orders the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
What’s the change in the Fingerprint scanner?
The fingerprint sensor has taken a great leap and is way quicker and secure with the Qualcomm 3D Sonic Generation 2 sensor. The new sensor is 50% bigger, 75% larger and takes in more Biometric data. Good news that the S21 Ultra now supports S Pen. The stylus is not provided with the phone though and you will have to pay extra 40$ for getting it. Also since there is no internal integrated room for holding the stylus you might need a case which has a slot for the S pen as well. Well, that might cost you another 30$. Anyways, the S pen is just a add on feature and is not that important but if you are so much concerned about the S pen and if you are ready to pay, then go get it. The latency and smoothness is the same as that on the galaxy Note 20 Ultra and is very smooth and responsive. However, the motion gestures and many other stylus features available on the S pen are missing on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. So, you can also consider the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra if you are pretty concerned about the S Pen.