Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review
At the time of writing, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is at the top of the smartphone food-chain. It’s the best of the best. Or at least, it’s designed to be. While the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has some amazing specs, a breath-taking design, and a staggeringly good camera set up, it’s not without a few minor faults. Regardless, it’s one of our top-rated smartphones for 2021 and it really doesn’t disappoint.
4.9 out of 5 stars
- Fantastic design
- Amazing cameras and zoom
- S-Pen compatible
- Limited storage options
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Full Review
Released in January 2021 along with the other two, lower spec models in the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, the S21 Ultra is the best you can get. It’s fast, powerful, offers plenty of storage space, and has that super sleek, million-dollar feel to the design. But it’s the cameras that have everyone excited. If the photography features are the main reason you buy a smartphone, this could be the perfect phone for you.
In our Samsung Galaxy S21 review, we’ll cover the main and key features before diving in to look at the capacity, system and battery life.
Below you can find the main features of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. As this is the top model in the series, you can expect to find the best specs in comparison to the S20 series, the S21 model, and the S21+.
- Released: January 2021
- Weight: 227g
- Dimensions: 16.51 x 7.56 x 0.89cm
- Display: 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
- System: Exynos 2100 processor with Android 11
- Cameras: Dual rear 10MP cameras, rear 12MP camera, rear 108MP camera, front 40MP camera
- Storage: 128GB, 256GB or 512GB, 12GB or 16GB RAM
While some areas of the specs are market-leading (the cameras, in particular) there are a few areas that are subpar. We will point these out further on in our review. But before we get to that, here are the three key features that Samsung are highlighting with the Galaxy S21 Ultra:
Key Feature – The Best Cameras
For the photography fanatics, we’ve listed the detailed specs for each camera in our in-depth review below. But even without seeing the numbers, the average photo-taker will instantly notice a huge difference between the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the S21+/S21.
The zoom is particularly impressive. 10x optical zoom and the powerful ultra-wide lens that’s part of the quad of cameras on the rear of the phone make zooming in a delight. No more shaky, blurry, grainy images, even when you zoom in to the max.
Even more impressive is the new range of photography features on the S21 series – they make using these powerful cameras smoother and easier. You don’t need to understand aperture, optical vs digital zoom, and all the other technical jargon to use the cameras on this phone. Just take a photo and marvel at how sharp, clear and bright it turns out.
The camera features on this phone are a solid 10/10.
Key Feature – S-Pen Compatibility
If you liked the stylus of the Galaxy Note series, you’ve probably been disappointed with the lack of stylus accessories for the S series so far. But that changes now.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is compatible with the S-Pen – the new stylus designed especially for the S series. It’s much easier to grip than the old styluses and we are eagerly awaiting the S-Pen Pro at some point this year to take it a step further.
If you have an old Samsung pen, it should be compatible with this phone too.
The only problem? There’s no built-in slot on the phone to store the stylus, unless you buy a Samsung phone cover with a slot especially for it. This makes the S-Pen compatibility feel more like an after-thought. But it’s a nice, optional feature to have nonetheless.
Key Feature – Design
It is sleek! The colour options for the Ultra are Phantom Black or Phantom Silver, so you miss out on the lush Phantom Violet colour available on the S21. There are three additional colours available if you buy directly from Samsung.
As for the size, it’s not massively larger than the S21+ but it is a bit thicker. Nonetheless, the smooth slightly curved edges make it easy to grip and with the new colour schemes, it does feel like a premium phone.
Honestly? We had goosebumps when we first held it.
Display and Screen Size
- Display: Dynamic AMOLED 2X
- Screen Size: 6.8 inches
- Resolution: 3200 x 1440
- Refresh Rate: 120Hz
The entire S21 range has the Dynamic AMOLED 2X display screen which is brilliant. Even on the lower spec S21+ and S21, the lower resolution is hardly noticeable because the display is just so crisp. Add on the 120Hz refresh rate and it feels so responsive too.
The S21 Ultra has the Quad HD resolution, which is better than the Full HD – it’s something that will be more noticeable to gamers and anyone using a VR headset. For general, everyday use… you won’t really be able to tell a difference.
So, while the resolution is greatly improved on the S21 Ultra vs the S21 Plus, there’s not much difference when you hold them side by side. The Plus is only 0.1 inch smaller and still has the 120Hz refresh rate.
There are several reasons why the Ultra is better than the Plus, but the display only just makes that list.
- Energy: 5000mAh
- Performance: unknown playback times
In numbers, the 5000mAh is impressive. This is a large and capable battery that’s no laughingstock. And yet, it doesn’t outperform smaller smartphone batteries by as much as you’d think. This is mostly due to the QHD+ screen, 120Hz refresh rate, and of course the 5G connectivity (including new C-band support). So, the battery is decent and it will last all day, but it won’t perform miracles. Powerful smartphones require powerful batteries.
As for the charging options, there’s no charging block in the box. Use the USB-C-to-USB cable to achieve up to 25W or opt for wireless charging at 15W. Either way, you’ll need to buy a fast-charging block if you don’t already own one.
Memory & Performance
- Processor: Exynos 2100 (or Snapdragon 888 in the US)
- Operating System: Android 11
- Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
- RAM: 12GB or 16GB
The 128GB and 256GB options come with 12GB of RAM, while the 512GB option comes with 16GB of RAM.
For the everyday user, even 128GB is a large capacity. If you think you might be able to fill that, then the 256GB option is available. And then there’s the largest capacity, 512GB which is only available on the S21 Ultra model. The only problem is there’s no MicroSD card slot. So, if you got the 128GB version and wanted more space, you’d have to buy a whole new phone rather than just sliding in a MicroSD card.
Removing the card slot made the S21 and S21+ more affordable and slimmer. But with the Ultra, the phone is already quite expensive and quite thick thanks to the battery – so why not add a MicroSD slot as well? It’s possibly the biggest fault we have with this phone.
The operating system and processor are brilliant – no complaints here. They are the best that’s currently available. Check out the Samsung Galaxy S21 review for more details about that.
- Rear Camera: 12MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2)
- Rear Camera: 108MP wide-angle (ƒ/1.8)
- Rear Camera: 10MP telephoto (ƒ/2.4)
- Rear Camera: 10MP telephoto (ƒ/4.9)
- Front Camera: 40MP selfie camera (ƒ/2.2)
And if those simple specs weren’t enough to impress you, there’s the laser AF for optical image stabilisation, dual optical zooms at x3 and x10, and a super resolution zoom up to x100.
Besides the amazing zoom and picture quality we’ve already mentioned, there’s also the 40MP selfie camera that takes perfect portraits and selfies, with enough zoom to get the whole gang in the shot. Combined with Director’s View (filming from the rear cameras and front camera simultaneously) we foresee this smartphone being exceptionally popular with vloggers.
How does it compare to the Galaxy S21 Ultra?
It’s slightly bigger, it’s a lot better. Despite having the same display, same system/processor and a similar battery size, the updated camera set up and zoom system are amazing. That’s where your money goes when you buy the better model.
Sure, it’s not without faults. But it’s still one of the best smartphones available to buy as we venture further into 2021.
Conclusion – Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra?
If photography and videography are your game, you shouldn’t search for a new smartphone without considering the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The specs are, currently, unmatched and this phone is equipped with the battery, display and systems to keep up. It’s also ready for the future with 5G connectivity and it’s compatible with C-band, which we hope to see come into play later this year. There’s very little to dislike about the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.Click here to find and compare Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra prices