Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S21 trio today, but by far the most interesting product is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, the REAL new flagship. That’s because it brings the most novelty compared to the S21 and S21+. It also feels like a “Feedback Phone”, built on all the requirements and complaints for the S20 Ultra. The device is priced at 1249 euros and comes with a preorder bundle that includes the new SmartTag and also a pair of Galaxy Buds Pro.
We’ve spent some minutes with the newcomer and we’ve got the hands on impressions below.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a bit similar to the S20 Ultra when seen from the front, but it’s a bit less curved. It uses a brand new main camera design, with a module that seems “wrapped” around the top left corner. It also has a camera module that’s 30% smaller than the Note 20 Ultra one and less protruding. The handset has Gorilla Glass Victus at the front and back and uses a stainless steel frame. It’s IP68 certified and comes in the hues Phantom Black and Phantom Silver.
It weighs 227 grams and measures 8.9 mm in waistline. I like the new camera design and the module fits the back better.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G packs a 6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120 Hz refresh rate, this time applied to the full WQHD+ resolution, not just Full HD like the S20 Ultra. It’s also a refresh rate that can drop as low as 10 Hz, being Adaptive, so it can save power when the full 120 Hz aren’t needed. The screen also offers HDR10+ support and the promise of 1500 nits of brightness. It integrates an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, plus narrow bezels and a punch hole for the selfie camera.
We also get an Eye Comfort Shield feature, which rids you of the blue light problems.
- Display: 6.8 inch, WQHD, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120 Hz refresh rate
- Processor: Exynos 2100, 5 nm
- RAM: 12/16 GB
- Storage: 128, 256, 512 GB (no microSD)
- Battery: 5000 mAh, 25W wired charge, 15W wireless charge, Wireless PowerShare
- Selfie camera: 40 MP
- Main camera: 108 MP + 12 MP ultrawide + 10 MP telephoto (3x optical zoom) + 10 MP telephoto (10X optical zoom) + laser focus
- Connectivity: 4G, 5G, WiFi 6E, UWB, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, NFC
- Others: AKG tuned stereo speakers, S-Pen support
We start with the 40 megapixel selfie camera, cut in a punch hole at the top of the device’s front side. That’s basically unchanged from the S20 Ultra and comes with Phase Detection. At the back we find the main camera with a 108 megapixel Bright HMX Samsung sensor, that combines 9 pixels in 1. It’s got a Remosaic process and takes 12 MP shots after the pixels are combined. It also has Phase Detection, OIS, F/1.8 aperture, 0.8 micron pixels. Next up is a 12 MP ultrawide camera, with Dual Pixel technology, 120 degree angle, F/2.2 aperture and 1.4 micron pixels.
We also get a 10 MP telephoto cam with Dual Pixel Tech, 3X optical zoom and OIS, plus F/2.4 aperture and 1.22 micron pixels. Finally, the biggest novelty is the second telephoto camera, also with a 10 MP sensor and offering a periscope setup and 10X optical zoom. It has OIS, F/4.9 aperture and 2 micron pixels. To those we add a laser focus and LED Flash. The top level of zoom is 100X, but we also have Space Zoom technology available. The device does 12 bit RAW capture in Pro mode, which helps with editing.
A new feature is Director’s View with Live Thumbnails, which let you see your capture with all 3 lenses, switching between them for a preview of your capture in a seamless way. We also have Vlogger View, which lets you shoot with the front and back camera at the same time.
Single Take 2.0 is also here with 5 times better AI processing and new types of shots like Highlight Video or Dynamic Slow-Mo.
8K Filming is now cinematic at 24 FPS and we also get the 8K Snap, which takes a 33 MP picture when filming like this. Super Steady Video is improved and applied to the 60 FPS videos, plus all the camera on the phone can now shoot 4K 60 FPS video.
Samsung also offers multi microphone recording, including one by hooking up to Galaxy Buds Pro as a sound source.
Portrait gets upgraded too, with new Studio Lightning options and sliders, welcome additions to the current filters.
Finally, the Space Zoom 30X gets a Zoom Lock mechanism, which when tapped on the screen stabilizes the shaky frame typical for a high level of zoom.
Software/ Special features
Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G runs on Android 11 with One UI 3.1 applied on top. It includes new lockscreen widgets, extra transparency in menus, evolved Dark Mode, extra fluidity compared to One UI 2.1 and 2.5. There’s a separation of chat notifications, new volume menu and improved settings. SmartThings Find now lets you find a device even it’s offline and there’s also the new Galaxy SmartTag, that can be attached to keys, wallet and the leash of a dog.
For security we have an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner now 1.7 times bigger than on the S20 Ultra and also Samsung Knox Vault, a chipset level security platform, accompanied by Metadata Removal and Private Share, which lets you control what you share, with whom and ofr how long.
Another novelty is WiFi 6E support, with up to 2.4 Gbps speeds and also the functionality of a Digital Key, so you can use this phone to unlock your car. For the first time a Galaxy S gets S-Pen support, this model being the first. You can draw, write, take notes, underline and highlight, but you can also use previous Galaxy Note S-Pens, as well as styli from Staedtler, Lami and Uni.
Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G feels like the best specced and most evolved product of the bunch, especially through the new camera with Zoom Lock. It feels like a phone built from the feedback of the S20 Ultra: people wanted improved focus so we got laser focus, improved fingerprint scanner, which is now 1.7x bigger, improved zoom stabilization and we have zoom Lock. There was also demand for new Portrait options, which we got, plus 120 Hz refresh rate on a bigger diagonal. Exynos 2100 is shaping up to be a huge jump from Exynos 990 already.
The design is definitely eye catching and the only objection here is that we don’t get more colors aside from the two we have available.
You can get the phone from here.