Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Hands-on
The Samsung Galaxy S21 series is officially here, and now we’re gonna be checking out the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Like last year’s S20 series, the features are still spread across the variants in the same way, with the standard S21 and S21+ have almost the same specs save for the differences in display size and battery, the S21 Ultra is another beast entirely.
Starting with the basics, the S21 Ultra comes with a 6.8-inch screen, a tenth of an inch smaller than last year’s S20 Ultra. And with that little of a difference, we’re not losing a lot.
On the contrary, we actually gain a lot because of the actual display panel. It’s a Dynamic AMOLED 2X that clocks in at a resolution of 1440 x 3200, with a dynamic aspect ratio of 10-120Hz.
This is a game-changing feature that changes the way we look at high-refresh smartphone displays. Realistically, you don’t need that buttery smooth 90, or 120, or even 144Hz all day. All that would do is drain your battery life. But since the S21 series features a dynamic refresh rate, this problem is alleviated. You get that maximum 120Hz for when you’re playing games or doing some smooth scrolling, but also 10Hz for viewing static images or text files.
Still, that’s not the shocker about the S21 Ultra’s display, not by a longshot. Of course, it’s the S-Pen support that gets everyone’s trousers in a twist. This decision on Samsung’s part is quite a surprise, as it has all sorts of implications for their overall flagship line-up as features from both the S and Note series slowly creep towards some middle ground.
Of course, it’s too early to say anything — there’s an emphasis on support when we say “S-Pen support”. This means that while S-Pens will work on the S21 Ultra, it doesn’t have an actual S-Pen slot built-in. For that, you’ll have to get a separate case.
Other awesome display features include a peak brightness of 1600 nits, support for HDR10+, a new and improved ultrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor, and better protection in the form of the newly introduced Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
Checking out the rest of the body, we get the power and volume buttons on the right.
At the bottom, we get the dual SIM card tray, main microphone, USB Type-C port, and a loudspeaker.
As usual, we are getting two new chipsets for internal hardware — again, each reserved for specific regions. The American and Chinese markets will be getting the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, while the rest of the world including us here in the Philippines, will get the new Exynos 2100. As for memory, our local variant will be getting 12GB of RAM with 256GB of internal storage.
A jump in overall performance is to be expected and appreciated. The real innovations here are definitely the improved image processing capability, improved NPU, the dynamic refresh rate, and let’s not forget about integrated 5G.
Moving on to power, the S21 Ultra gets a huge 5,000mAh battery that will support Samsung’s Super Fast Charging, as well as the requisite wireless charging and reverse wireless charging.
In this department, no upgrade has been made since last year’s model. Still, given the new dynamic refresh rate and new chipset, we expect better efficiency and longer overall battery life.
Checking out the cameras, this is another area where the Ultra sets itself apart from its brethren. We get a quad setup consisting of a 108MP main sensor, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 10x telephoto, and a 10MP 3x telephoto for the rear. The camera module is still huge, taking up about half of the phone’s width. However, in our opinion, it does look better than the S20 Ultra’s camera module since this new corner design blends into the rest of the phone more seamlessly.
It also looks like it has a total of five cameras, which isn’t the case — the fifth sensor (on the upper right) is actually a Laser Autofocus sensor.
The front camera is a 40MP sensor that’s still in the same place as last year, a punch hole in the screen’s upper center.
On the camera software side, we pretty much get improvements on past features like Super Steady Mode and Single Take Mode. Still, this time Samsung has introduced “Director Mode”, which essentially allows you to record videos with the front and rear camera simultaneously, with the output resembling a video call.
Check out our initial sample photos here:
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a beast of a smartphone that represents an excellent start for Samsung’s 2021 and a potential turning point in the company’s flagship smartphone direction, which is going to be quite interesting.
Here in the Philippines, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is priced at a hefty PHP69,990.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs:
6.8-inch Edge QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
10~120Hz Dynamic refresh rate
Gorilla Glass Victus
Samsung Exynos 2100
12GB, 16GB RAM
128GB, 256GB, 512GB storage
• 108MP Phase Detection F1.8 (wide)
• 12MP Dual Pixel F2.2 (ultrawide)
• 10MP Dual Pixel F4.9 (10x tele, 100x Space Zoom)
• 10MP Dual Pixel F2.4 (3x tele)
40MP Dual Pixel F2.2 front camera
5G, 4G LTE
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, Galileo
Fingerprint scanner (in-display)
AKG Stereo Speakers
IP68 water and dust resistance
OneUI 3.1 (Android 11)
5,000mAh battery w/ 25W fast charging, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging
75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9mm
Phantom Black, Phantom Silver