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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: The best gets even better

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra is a phone aimed for the pros, and one that packs all the top-end features. Here's what we thought of its performance.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi |
Updated: January 22, 2021 8:26:32 am
samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g rating, galaxy s21 ultra 5g camera review, samsung galaxy s21 ultra rating, samsung galaxy s21 ultra price, samsung galaxy s21 ultra 5g, samsung galaxy s21 ultra 5g review, samsung galaxy s21 ultra camera review, samsung galaxy s21 ultra battery review, samsung galaxy s21 ultra specifications review, samsung galaxy s21 ultra features review, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review indian express, samsung galaxy s21 ultra 5g price in indiaThe Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the most powerful device in the S21 series. (Image: The Indian Express/Nandagopal Rajan)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: The first flagship devices of 2021 have rolled in. The honour goes to the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, which tries to bring in a mean mix of style and brawn that could come in handy if you are lonely at home or on a solitary trek up the mountain. Whatever you would want to do with the S21s, Samsung has done one thing: underline that it is these phones which will be the pinnacle of Android technology, yet again.

Like with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, Samsung too has pushed the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as a phone that is a few notches ahead of its siblings and meant for the power user who also has some spare change lying around. So the S21 Ultra is clearly not a phone for everyone. It is a phone that shows what all can be done by a smartphone now, from the best of display technology to processing power and camera muscle.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra price in India: Rs 1,05,999 onwards

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs: 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, (1440 x 3200 pixels, 20:9 ratio ~515 ppi density) | Exynos 2100 (5 nm) with 128GB 12GB RAM/ 256GB 12GB RAM/ 512GB 16GB RAM | 108 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide) + 10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto) + 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto) + 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide) + 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide) front camera | Li-Ion 5000 mAh | Stylus support | 227 grams

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: What’s new?

There is a lot new with the S21 Ultra. To start with, the phone looks very different from anything else in the market because of the five-lens quad camera module at the back. This is a significant bump, and hard to miss.

There is the new Phantom Black colour, which is really something to flaunt. After the launch event I was thinking it would be a bit more black than this, but this black is still really stunning.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has five lens camera on the back. (Image: The Indian Express/Nandagopal Rajan)

The S21 series is powered by the new Exynos 2100 in markets like India, the first time a 5 nanometer (nm) chip has made it to a Samsung phone.

Then there is the display which is actually a centimetre smaller than the older S20 Ultra at 6.8 inches, but it is brighter than before. But the real magic of this display is adaptive display that automatically switches between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on what you are using it for.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED display. (Image: The Indian Express/Nandagopal Rajan)

The S21 Ultra is also S Pen compatible, but the stylus does not come in the box and will be available for purchase later. Also, some users will miss the wall charger which is no longer a standard issue in the box.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: What is good?

Let me start by saying that I am not even going to write about the processing power of this phone. Samsung’s flagships should be beyond all that now. They are way too powerful for this to take up words. Anyway, with the S21 Ultra I could see lot more use of AI in everything from the adaptive display to the camera suggestions, underlining the confidence Samsung has in the processing power.

Samsung clearly makes the best displays in the world. With the S21 Ultra, it is also a smarter display, one that knows what you are doing and changes the refresh rates accordingly, so that you get a smoother experience and save some battery in the process. Also, at 1500 nits this is a very bright display that works very well in the sunlight and gives you a headache in the bedroom, if you leave it at the brightest.

I also liked how you can pull down the resolution if you want to save on battery life. Frankly, you don’t need WQHD+ resolution to be on a Zoom call or to browse a website.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review The display resolution on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra can be changed to save battery life. (Image: The Indian Express/Nandagopal Rajan)

Along with the display, I have to mention how this phone has one of the best speakers I have encountered in a phone. It is loud enough for my son to break into a gig on ‘Dance Monkey’ and sharp enough for me to enjoy some Carnatic numbers.

The best part of the S21 Ultra has to be its camera and there are four of them just on the back. A quad camera set up is not really new, but two telephoto lenses are rare. And the zoom capabilities are what Samsung is touting as unique. One of the lenses takes you till 3x and then it skips to the other for the 10x zoom. There is a small jerk when this happens, but nothing that will keep you away from the best zoom experience on a smartphone till now.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review A bowl of dessert shot on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan) samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review Various desserts captured on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

Till about 30x the photos come out pretty neat. You can do 100x in what Samsung calls Space Zoom, but use this for watching the birds and not really clicking their pictures, as those images are quite grainy despite the zoom lock feature. On video, you can use the full 20x zoom with minimum noise.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review A lamp post shot on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra at 10X Zoom. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan) samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review An eagle on a rooftop shot on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra at 30X Zoom. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

 

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samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review An eagle preying on a pigeon shot on the S21 Ultra Camera at 100X Zoom. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan) samsung galaxy s21 ultra, samsung galaxy s21 ultra review, galaxy s21 ultra 5g review A picture of the moon shot using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra at 100X zoom. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

The rest of the camera works really well too and I was impressed by the night mode and the Pro Mode. In the Pro Mode Samsung has packed features which will make this phone a good buy for creators, especially with the ability to change microphone direction during a shoot. There is also Director’s Cut, which lets you record videos using multiple cameras and even shift the cameras as you are recording. Overall, this camera and app packs so much that you will enjoy experimenting and even doing professional stuff with it.

A plant in a pot, captured using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan) Various food items shot on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera. (Image: The Indian Express/ Nandagopal Rajan)

 

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The Galaxy S series has never really been known for its battery, so the 5000 mAh battery is a plus, though it is a bummer that there is no fast charger included in the pack. You might want to use one from your past phones or even get a third-party option from a trusted brand.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review: What is not that good?

The S21 Ultra is a perfect phone in every sense. But I could not help notice how the phone is quite slippery and I felt this more while trying out some of the games. It does not give a good grip that is needed to do well in a racing game for instance, because of the smooth frame that rings the phone.

This and the prominent camera bump means you have to get a cover to protect this phone. That, however, is the worst thing that could happen to the Phantom Black you would want flaunt so much.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Should you buy?

The S21 Ultra is a good phone for those who want an Android flagship that does everything and does everything better than everyone else. It is also a phone for those who need a camera that can capture those great selfies as well as the tiger in the bush during a Ranthambore safari. This is a phone for the pros in every sense and those who don’t need this much can look at the lower specced versions of the S21 series. Samsung seems to have a winner here, but this is not a phone for the masses.

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