Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: The top dog? – Pocket-lint

(Pocket-lint) – Samsung moved quickly to release its brand-new flagship phone variety in January 2021, with the Galaxy S21 Ultra sitting at the top of the pile – above the S21 and S21+ designs.
Having actually developed the Ultra tier in 2020, the S21 Ultra feels like a chance to address what didnt deal with the previous phone and try to create the extremely phone that Samsung – and all of us – desire.
The Ultra is developed to be the best of whatever phone: the very best cam, the very best screen, the most powerful. Has Samsung handled to provide a top tier experience with the second-generation Ultra?

At the launch of the S21 gadgets, Samsung invested a lot of time talking about the surface of its Phantom Black design. Saying that less is more will raise an eyebrow among those looking at brand-new S21 Ultra, into which Samsung clearly has put everything.
Theres no questioning that the Phantom Black S21 Ultra is something to see. As soon as you get past the magnitude of the electronic camera housing, with those big lenses taking a look at you, youll appreciate what Samsung was discussing.
The matte surface of the S21 Ultra is for that reason welcome, the Gorilla Glass Victus rear looking more like black metal. Theres a smooth texture to it, mercifully keeping clean when managed, so it looks much better than the older S20 Ultra.
That the surface likewise streams across the electronic camera real estate assists to camouflage it to a degree – more so than a few of the contrasting surfaces that Samsung has utilized on the smaller sized S20 and S21+ designs.
The frame of the Phantom Black phone stays shiny and extends up around the edges of the video camera real estate so it looks more incorporated. Its an unique design, something weve not seen prior to – which is really invited on a smart device.
Pocket-lintHowever, theres no getting away that this is a big phone – its a little thick and a little heavy too – but a minimum of the display screen fills the front, so it doesnt seem like space is wasted.
Flip to the front and the curves to the edge of the display continue Samsungs trick of concealing the edge bezels for a more smooth appearance – whichs something that the routine S21 and S21+ no longer offer. Theres a touch of bezel to the top and bottom of the Ultras screen, while the front punch hole video camera is kept little – however its all very similar to other recent Samsung phones.
Samsung has adhered to using stereo speakers, and while the Dolby Atmos result adds an increase and theres appreciable volume without losing the bass and ending up being tinny, we do not believe this is the best arrangement of speakers in a phone. The ear speaker functions as one speaker, the second being on the base of the phone, so its really easy to cover with a hand when holding the phone in landscape, which is downside for players. For those enjoying video, the experience is rather much better, as with a looser grip which virtualised Dolby Atmos result really adds some punch to audio..
Samsung has moved the SIM tray to the bottom of the phone and this has actually resulted in the mic hole being moved better to the centre of the phone, next to the USB-C port. The issue is that its really easy to cover when supporting the phone. Due to the fact that with a phone this size, its common to support it with a finger under the phone.

Measurements: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm/ Weight: 228g
Build: Metal and glass building
IP68 waterproofing

6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X.
Quad HD+, HDR10+ assistance.
Adaptive 10-120Hz refresh.
1500 nits brightness.
S Pen assistance.

Samsung phones are everything about the display screen. Loaded with a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel, this is a typical Samsung experience with a lively and bright delivery of the visuals. Samsung states that this is its brightest yet – at 1500 nits maximum – however there are some additional crucial modifications that have actually occurred under the surface area.
The S21 Ultra adopts the Note 20 Ultras adaptive motion smoothness to resolve one of the huge criticisms of the previous S20 Ultra. Now the phone can select revitalize rates from 10-120Hz to suit the material.
Pocket-lintThat will conserve battery, since it indicates youre not pressing 120 revitalizes every second when youre checking out a static page, yet youll get the fluidity when youre scrolling or video gaming where faster refresh rates are supported. Some will discover the refresh rate more than others, so its not the be-all and end-all, however its excellent that Samsung has actually addressed this sticking point from the previous model of this phone.
Samsung adheres to offering a top resolution – its QHD+, which is 3200 by 1440 pixels – but thats not switched on by default (which is 2400 by 1080 pixels). One thing worth keeping in mind is that this is the only S21 design that provides a Quad HD resolution, with Samsung making a small departure from its previous position where greater resolutions were used on the regular Galaxy S designs too..
Samsungs default display screen setting is brilliant and we cant assist feeling that many will stick to that setting to get the pop that this display screen uses – the very best part being that you can tune it, moving the white balance to fit your preference. Samsung has a more innovative “eye comfort shield” now too, which can adjust the tones of the display screen throughout the day, rather like Apples True Tone display. We discovered the Ultras display to be a little dim by default, but after you nudge it up a little it seems to learn your preference.
For those who wear polarising sunglasses youll discover the display dims relatively radically in landscape orientation – i.e., when taking pictures – however you can still make out most of whats on the screen, so its not a catastrophe.
Pocket-lintOn top of this screen goodness is the support for the S Pen stylus, which is a big addition to this series. This had formerly been the protect of the Note – making us question what will occur to that series in 2021 – and while the S21 Ultra does not included a stylus in package, you can either purchase one or use one from an older device.
You dont get all the S Pen Air Commands that you do on the Note, however you can engage with the phone without putting your fingers all over it, you can scribble in the Notes app or utilize it for exact things like video editing, without needing to look previous your fat fingertip when scrubbing along a timeline..
Electronic camera.

Composing by Chris Hall.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra feels like a various phone to the S20 Ultra. It now feels like a flagship with more function and intent.
With the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+ moving slightly down the spec ladder, the Ultra plainly sits pride of place as the premium flagship offering in this brand-new 2021 household.
But theres no avoiding that it is an expensive phone – and with expected launches on flagship hardware from competitors, were sure there will be plenty of options for those wanting something more wallet friendly.
Efficiency is at the heart of what the Galaxy S21 Ultra uses and its difficult to be dissatisfied with the experience. It may take a little tinkering to get One UI software running at its best, but with a magnificent screen, detailed video cameras, and loads of power, theres very little that the S21 Ultra doesnt deliver.
Notably, in a change from 2020, we get the feeling that the S21 Ultra will now attract those who want the very best from Samsung, leaving the other designs in the S21 household a little more adrift.


Quad rear camera:.
Main: 108-megapixels, 0.8 ┬Ám pixel size, f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS), laser autofocus.
In the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung follows the path it set out with the S20 Ultra: it opts for high resolutions, aiming to beat other gadgets on the spec sheet. Its still a slightly puzzling position, thinking about that both the Galaxy S21 and S21+ dont follow this line, deciding for a 12-megapixel main cam instead of the 108-megapixel sensor found here. Samsung appears to be taking completely various methods – one based around pixel binning, the other based around larger sensing units and no binning.
Pocket-lintBut there have actually been other modifications because the last generation: theres a brand-new 108-megapixel primary sensor supported by a new laser autofocus system, developed to make sure that things remain in focus. The S21 Ultra takes 12-megapixel photos as standard with 108-megapixel staying as an alternative. Its not a hugely useful option – but you can, in great light, capture detail that you wont get in 12-megapixel mode.
That possibly implies you can crop into an image to get to that detail, however with a wealth of telephoto alternatives too, it might not deserve the effort. Samsungs Gallery app is truly beneficial here, as you can quickly focus on a photo youve taken and crop a brand-new image from it, utilizing that complete resolution information.
Weve often been doubtful of high resolution sensors in the past, however side-by-side with the base Galaxy S21 with its 12-megapixel video camera, the Ultra is quickly the much better entertainer, producing sharper images both in night and day. While both use the very same general set of features, it feels like Samsung has actually sought to ramp up the results of the S21 Ultra.
One location that seems to have actually got a bigger boost is night shooting. If youre using Samsungs scene optimiser, it will offer you those longer night exposures, however flipping to the dedicated night mode is always rewarding in low-light conditions. The results are extremely functional mobile shots, able to handle some predicaments, and even in extremely dark conditions weve got some decent outcomes.
Night mode works on the front and the back electronic cameras, but skillfully the front electronic camera will use a little display screen illumination to provide your face some light to ensure you get something usable. Shots are generally a number of seconds long – averaging about 5-seconds – with the capability to turn a dark scene into something much lighter. Yes, you lose the darkness, but you get a usable picture, which is the point.
There are now two 10-megapixel cams on the back of the S21 Ultra making up the new telephoto system: one offering 3x optical zoom; the other a periscope lens offering 10x optical zoom. They work in mix, so from the camera app its a seamless transition from one to the other so youre getting the very best lens for the job.

Theres some intervention from the camera app here, as youll sometimes find the 3x zoom is still originating from the primary lens, most likely to provide the illusion of a smooth transfer as you pinch from one to the other. The thing to watch here is the aperture, as the 10x optical is f/4.9, implying you require good light to get great outcomes from it. We discovered that far zoom shots are visibly different in colour to the other lenses too.
You can get good results from the zoom lenses, with the entire system feeling more functional than it did before. The 100x Space Zoom is still basically rubbish – with results looking more like abstract art – but theres a new stabilisation system that aims to keep your handshake at bay and keep the subject steady.
Youre supposed to tap in the preview box to lock on, which is more helpful at 30x zoom than at the 100x far-end, however keeping the phone stable and tapping the screen takes some doing. Still, you get much better zoom images than you do from electronic cameras without such optical wizardry going on. The 10x images that are pretty excellent, while at 30x you can still accomplish beneficial results..
But it can likewise be a little confusing. While there are lens icons in the viewfinder, when you tap them a selection of mathematical zoom buttons appears when you start using zoom, ranging from 0.6 x approximately 100x, so you then have 11 different buttons associating with zoom options on the screen. The confusing thing is that a person of these is 2x and one 4x – while tapping the lens button gives you optical 3x – so theres a strange crossover.
Pocket-lintWeve also discovered that – regardless of being 10-megapixel sensing units on the spec sheet – the output from the telephoto lenses is 12-megapixels. Weve asked Samsung why this is the case. The answer? Consistency. Whichever of the lenses youre using to shoot youll get a 12MP result.
This is a minor curiosity, due to the fact that the whole setup of the Ultra is about using those committed lenses to provide you better quality results. We get the sensation that Samsung just desired to put whatever into this camera without thinking about how it may get utilized.
Theres definitely no shortage of alternatives, with the fun Single Take being a terrific way to catch moving images, and the new Directors View offering thumbnails live from the other cameras while you are shooting. It indicates you can see what that view looks like on the ultra-wide angle, for example, then switch to that lens.

Samsung has moved the SIM tray to the bottom of the phone and this has resulted in the mic hole being moved closer to the centre of the phone, next to the USB-C port. In the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung follows the course it set out with the S20 Ultra: it goes for high resolutions, looking to beat other devices on the spec sheet. The phone is now powered by Samsungs own Exynos 2100 or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, depending on the area in which you buy the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra delivers a fantastic experience on these effective games – accepting the speaker problem we talked about above – with the Game Booster using some alternatives to boost. The Galaxy S21 Ultra does not get away the battery life concerns that are typically associated with flagship Samsung products.

With a brand-new gadget comes brand-new hardware, pushing along Samsungs One UI 3.1, based on Googles Android 11 operating system. The phone is now powered by Samsungs own Exynos 2100 or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, depending on the region in which you purchase the phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra provides a fantastic experience on these powerful video games – accepting the speaker issue we talked about above – with the Game Booster offering some choices to boost. It does not go quite as far as youll get from devoted gaming devices like the Lenovo Legion Duel, however it does so without getting hot.
Its regrettable that the microSD card slot has been removed, as this removes among the plus points that Samsung has used for some time. It appears like an unusual modification in direction, but with the introduction of 5G – indicating faster streaming for those who have gain access to – and the development of streaming services and online storage, it seems like the age of regional storage might be concerning an end.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra does not get away the battery life problems that are typically associated with flagship Samsung products. During testing – which involved a lot of screen time and cam use – we generally had to top up throughout the day.
Sure, you can enhance things by refusing the brightness – or theres even an option to restrict video games to 48fps – but the Galaxy S21 Ultra will not win any awards for battery life. It features the area.
As always, theres a total reworking of Android 11 in Samsungs One UI software, which weve found to be slick and clean. Its a total reworking, but weve long felt that this is the very best total overhaul, an action above the similarity Xiaomi or Oppo in terms of what it provides. That will, naturally, go through personal taste, however theres a growing “Google-iness” to this software. The most significant real modification is that you can swipe to Google Discover from the house screen, with Samsung possibly understanding that Bixby Home, Upday, Flipboard or whatever else has actually sat in that position in the past, just isnt what individuals desire..
While theres still an excellent deal of pre-loaded material, some duplication or alternative of apps with Samsung alternatives, its not too hard to manage. Yes, the very best experience comes when you embrace the Samsung account, however you do not have to, simply as you dont need to use Bixby, ever. Youll be entrusted to a folder of junk Samsung apps, and we d still suggest changing to Gboard, Chrome and Googles own Messages and Phone apps – all of which are available in the Play Store – for the very best experience..

That obviously highlights one of the new skills: the power to manage all these synchronised feeds and give you access to all the cameras at greater capture rates than before. You can capture 4K 60fps from all the lenses, whereas previously you might only have 4K 30fps from some lenses. That implies you can keep the quality and switch in between lenses for more creative impacts, or not have to compromise quality due to the fact that you desire to utilize the ultra-wide angle, for instance.
Theres still the alternative for 8K video capture, restricted to 24fps, which sort of weakens the message from Samsung about recording stills from 8K video – the so-called 8K Photo. As the frame rate is lower, these images are most likely to be blurry than an image drawn from 4K 60fps – or simply from the video camera.
The high-resolution front camera stays, giving you the alternative of 40-megapixel selfies. Why you d desire those, we cant think of, however the routine selfie modes results are 6.5-megapixels. Theres a slightly wider angle image readily available too, which offers you a 10-megapixel image, and theres extremely little distinction in performance between all those choices. Samsung has actually dropped the “live focus” calling and plumped for “portrait” rather, which makes things simpler to comprehend now, and increased the variety of background choices offered, consisting of some iPhone-like studio-style shots. Edge detection is reasonable and the lead to both night and day are excellent, however it will still get puzzled when handling tricky edges and backgrounds.
Overall, theres masses in the S21 Ultras camera offering. Much of it is more persuading than the previous S20 Ultra – and better than the likes of the S20 FE and S21 that we checked it together with – so its an action in the right direction, although it still feels so hectic that we presume people will neglect the majority of it and simply point and shoot. The good news is, with the scene optimiser turned on, its normally extremely capable when utilized like that.
Hardware performance and software application.

Also think about.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Apples top phone comes the closest in terms of price, size and aspiration. Although, surprisingly, its a little bit more cost effective that Samsungs device.

Exynos 2100/Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.
12/16GB RAM, 128/256/512GB storage.
5000mAh, 45W fast-charging.
5G connectivity.

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