Samsung S21 ultra is a true ULTRA phone that gives everything you expect. It has a great display with a 120HZ refresh rate, a big battery that you can’t easily kill in a day, an improved camera, and reasonable pricing when compared to last year’s S20 ultra. Nothing is perfect, right? S21 ultra too has its own strong and weak zones and that’s what we are going to see in this post.
As always, Samsung ships its premium flagship models with Snapdragon and the Exynos chipset. If you are in Europe, India, and other eastern regions you will most probably get the Exynos version. So I’ve reviewed and compared both Snapdragon 888 performance and Exynos 2100 performance to give you a better idea.
Design and Color
Finally, Samsung has made an identifiable design with the S21 lineup. The camera bump is neatly integrated into the edges so that they look like one piece, which is nice when compared to the camera protrusion design. The phone is still uneven when it lay on its back but people can notice that it is an S21 lineup and will not mistake it with other brands.
The S21 ultra is available in five colors; Phantom black, PhantomSilver, Phantom Brown, Phantom Navy, Phantom Titanium. Only Phantom Black and Phantom silver will be available first, other colors will be available after a month.
The phantom is very dark in person and the matte finish is really nice to hold…but, it is very delicate. Even if you place it on a rough surface, you can see the scratches when you take it. Try to add a cover or a case if you are going for the Phantom black.
When it comes to the smartphone display, Samsung is the best and they have proven it again. This time with the S21 ultra you can get both max resolution and the full 120Hz refresh rate. Letting the phone using both max resolution and high refresh rate will hit the battery hard, so Samsung has used LTPO panels.
What does LTPO do? Well, it drops the screen refresh rate as low as 10hz when it is idle and jumps to 120hz when you use it. The change in refresh rate takes place within seconds and users won’t even feel it. The LTPO panel is used in the previous Note 20 and the OnePlus has used this tech in their 8Pro, which works flawlessly to date so you can expect the same here.
Samsung has given you the option to change the screen settings from the natural to the vivid. If you like to see color popping out of your screen you can go for the vivid. Plus, the dark mode setting looks really great and it also helps you save a few extra battery time.
Fingerprint sensors have become a part of the screen nowadays. The under-display fingerprint sensor on the S21 ultra is 1.77 times bigger; it works fine and you will experience fewer failed attempts than before. Because of the larger surface area, you might feel it is a tad faster.
Apart from the 108mp camera lens, what makes the S21 ultra’s camera really special is the way you use the camera.
Samsung has surprisingly given you options to change the way you want your picture to be. For example, in the selfies, you can switch between natural and bright. It can take 4K 60fps videos on all cameras, including the 40mp selfie camera.
The 108mp camera is the heart of the whole system. Samsung has used its second-generation sensors in the 108mp lens. It still has difficulty in finding edges on the close-up subject. The laser autofocus does manage to get rid of the focus issues that were there in the S20 ultra, but still, you might have issues when the subject is too close. The default camera app switches to the macro mode and uses the ultrawide lens when you try to take extreme close-up shots, and it’s mind-blowing when you take proper subjects.
Samsung has given two lenses to zoom; one is a 3X, which is good and the other is a 10X optical zoom, and a 100X space zoom. Let’s be practical here, using the full 100X zoom will be very rare. Even if you take an image in 100X zoom, it is still messy. You can get proper shots in the 10x to 15X point zoom and decent shots with 30X if the light condition is bright. Where the 10X optical zoom really comes in handy is in the low light shots. The details are great and the image looks stunning on the 10X low light photos.
Speaking of low light photography, the night mode shots are great. Especially the ultrawide lens night mode shots are great, it even outperforms iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Pixel 5.
Where the camera still struggles is when it needs to deal with lots of dynamic range may be because Samsung likes to keep their photos brighter.
Overall, the S21 camera is more than a person wants in their day to day life. The 108mp camera lets you crop the images without any loss in clarity, if you are using your smartphone camera photographs for printing purpose, this one is the best.
To be frank, I expected more from the S21 ultra’s videography but still, it can’t meet the iPhone’s video quality. The colors are still flat and at some parts are grainy even if the conditions are bright. Yes it takes 8K videos (in 24fps) and the camera stability is good, but if you are a professional videographer, you will easily find where the camera lags in the end result.
But you can’t say that S21 videography is totally bad. Where it outperforms all other smartphones including the iPhone is in the Ultrawide lowlight videos.
As said before, S21 ultra can now take 4k 60fps video on all the lenses including the front camera. The videos are smooth, especially when you zoom from ultrawide to the closeup subject using the telephoto lens, the transition is smooth on the videos.
S21 Ultra Snapdragon 888 Vs Exynos 2100
The Exynos version of the Samsung has always been an underpowered version. If you have used one you might be aware that it feels laggy in the long run and the battery also drains quickly when compared to the Snapdragon version.
It isn’t the same story in the Exynos 2100. The CPU power is slightly over the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos chipset manages to keep the S21 a little longer, i.e., the battery life on Exynos 2100 is slightly better when compared to the Snapdragon 888 in the initial test.
Better CPU power and keeping the phone alive longer doesn’t make the Exynos a better chipset. It struggles badly in the GPU space and the throttling in the performance is bad.
You can see a sudden fall and spike in the Exynos performance, whereas Snapdragon gives a steady performance. In this test, the Snapdragon 888 battery life was 199 mins and the Exynos 2100 battery life was 222 mins. Snapdragon can finish the task or can do more tasks when compared to the Exynos. So Exynos’s ability to keep the phone alive for a longer period of time doesn’t really matter.
Regular uses won’t find this battery life difference. No matter which chipset you get, the S21 ultra will easily last almost two days.
One UI 3
Samsung UI is always known for its complicated design. Tons of features that you would rarely use will be there and the ones you would use regularly will be messed, the same is followed in the One UI 3.
Ads are built right into the interface, you will get annoyed easily. Buying a $1000 smartphone and seeing ads in the default apps. If you care about digital privacy, this ad part of the One UI will really test your anger.
Still, the split-screen multi-tasking and swiping gestures at the corner of the screen to access the extra functions are good. You can expect the typical Samsung experience in the One UI 3 as well with slight changes to the visuals and UI elements.
The S21 ultra is the first smartphone in Samsung’s “S” series line up to get the stylus support. The stylus is like an addon, you have to buy it separately and if you like to use it often, then you have to buy a separate case for it.
There are actually two S-pens; S-pen and S Pen Pro. The pro version gives you Bluetooth functionalities like air actions, control music, take pictures, controlling presentation sliders. The S pen version is will be available with the launch and the S Pen pro will be available later this year.
How is Samsung S21 Ultra
Samsung has really worked hard to make this phone a step up from the S20 ultra. Two main problems with the S20 ultra were the camera issues and the ambitious pricing.
The camera focus problem is sorted out with the laser autofocus. For the pricing, Samsung has priced the S21 ultra at $1199, which is actually $200 less than the S20 ultra. To reduce the cost, Samsung has removed the SD card slot, removed the power brick from the box, and the screen size is 6.8-inch, whereas the S20 ultra had a 6.9-inch screen.
Samsung made a special video for their Phantom black color in the presentation. Knowingly or unknowingly, dark is where the S21 ultra shines.
- The dark mode is great to use on 120HZ screen
- The camera performs really well in the dark
- Lowlight videography is phenomenal with the ultrawide lens