South Korean handset maker Samsung recently launched its flagship series (Galaxy S ), which includes the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, which intends to take on Apple’s Pro Max variants. With five top-quality cameras, better design, display and its best-ever system-on-chip in its most premium flagship, Samsung is trying to further bolster its position in the Android smartphone market.
Let’s see if it is enticing enough for you to upgrade your phone at a time when other Chinese rivals are trying to bring their flagship devices in the premium category.
The USP of this smartphone is its camera setup which includes a 108MP primary sensor, two 10MP telephoto cameras and a 12MP ultra-wide camera. The two telephoto cameras, however, have different types of lenses offering 3X and 10X optical zoom, respectively. The camera module also comes with a dedicated laser autofocus unit, and OIS on the main camera.
The smartphone’s camera zoom capabilities have improved if compared to the predecessor, especially with the help of the zoom lock feature for a stabilized shot with 30X and beyond zoom.
The moon shots are comparatively far better with 90-100X zoom with S21 Ultra, courtesy AI processing. However, in general, you can get good usaable shots up till 30X, but if you go further, you will need better light coupled with stable hands to get a decent picture. In its price category, no other brand comes closer to S21 Ultra 5G because of the camera capabilities it offers.
The camera app offers a slider to pick zoom of your choice even though there are options available to reach 3X, 4X, 10X, 30X, and 100X with a single tap.
It is worthwhile to mention that the primary camera with the new HM3 image sensor offers sharp images. Additionally, there are improvements in the dynamic range with properly exposed highlights and the right amount of saturation and details.
The low light performance is also great for both portraits and landscapes. If we talk about the ultra-wide camera, you will get sharper pictures with consistent colors.
The phone’s camera app has another feature, called Director’s View mode which allows you to capture video with combining both the front and back cameras concurrently – it shows simultaneous camera feeds for you to choose for the final video. In terms of video recording, the phone can shoot 4K video at 60fps from the front and rear cameras. You can shoot 8K video at 24fps.
The 40 MP selfie shooter captures great shots and is good for video blogging.
Display and Design
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a premium smartphone which shows in its design with a contour-cut camera housing and matte glass finish. The design is new as compared to its predecessor, and comes with Corning’s new Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back along with a metal frame. The matte finish is something which increases the premium look especially with the Vantablack-like Phantom Black colour. The ‘contour cut’ camera module design blends in with the frame making the phone’s back look minimal. The phone has a small punch hole in the top centre of the display for the selfie camera.
The smartphone comes with a 6.8 inch Quad HD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The 120 Hz refresh rate offers not just a great content viewing experience but a better and smooth experience, especially now with the S-Pen stylus.
The phone comes with its own Exynos 2100 5G SoC for Indian consumers. Samsung’s latest SoC is based on the same design or fabrication process as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC. The 12 GB variant which we reviewed handled heavy apps and crucial tasks very well. High-end games like Asphalt 9 were handled well. However, the phone did heat up a bit when gaming.
The phone has an integrated 5G modem, which you can’t really test because of the unavailability of 5G networks in India, but 4G performance was great both in terms of voice and data. It has 256GB UFS 3.1 storage for best ever storage performance on a Samsung flagship smartphone.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first S series flagship to fully support Samsung’s S Pen, which has been the main USP of the Note series. The phone doesn’t come with the S Pen and you will have to buy it separately. However, I used the Note 20 Ultra’s S Pen and it worked flawlessly on the S21 Ultra.
This premium smartphone is backed by a large 5000mAh battery which allows it to easily last a day with above average usage. The company’s backend software automatically adjusts refresh rate of the display depending upon the usage to save battery.
The phone, which supports 25W fast charging, doesn’t come with a charger in the box and you will have to buy it separately or use your old phone’s charger. It does come with a USB Type-C cable and the SIM eject tool. The phone also comes with wireless charging capability and reverse charging feature. I used Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s 25W charger, which took 95-100 minutes to fully charge the phone.
With the Ultra version, Samsung is offering more options in the Galaxy S 2021 flagship series which also has S21+ 5G and Galaxy S21 5G. The S21 Ultra 5G truly shines in the areas of processing power, camera performance and battery life, making it the best Android smartphone that Samsung has brought to the market and a strong rival to iPhone 12 Pro series. Those looking for best camera experience in the premium segment can opt for this smartphone if they have a budget of upwards of Rs 1 lakh.