Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review


The Galaxy S line must be the best-known brand in the world Android, it has always been Samsung's high-end and therefore, for people who do not know much about technology, without a doubt the best Android phone and direct competitor of the iPhone. Last year Samsung introduced us to its new Ultra model, which sought to put all the best of the company in a more expensive model and did not skimp in any way. 

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the third phone launched by the Korean company in this regard –after S20 and Note20– and they seem to have learned from mistakes because from now on I tell you that the hardware of this phone is simply spectacular, with an excellent design, a camera that's up to the task and adds a periscope lens that lets you take zoom photos like no other phone. And of course, a software that has improved little but has done so in matters of importance.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra was launched in two versions, one with a Qualcomm processor and the other with an Exynos processor, which is the one we have been testing and which will soon arrive in Chile.

Model

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

Screen

  • Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10 +, 1500 nits
  • 6.8 inches, QHD + resolution (1440 x 3200), 515 dpi
  • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Cameras
  • 108MP Main, ƒ / 1.8
  • 12MP Ultra Wide, ƒ / 2.2
  • 10MP Telephoto 3x
  • 10MP Telephoto 10x
  • Laser AF
  • 40MP Front
  • 8K recording at 24fps, 4K at 60fps
  • HDR10 + Director View recording
Hardware
  • CPU Exynos 2100 processor, 5nm
  • Mali-G78 MP14 GPU 12GB
  • RAM
  • 256GB storage (128GB version available)
  • Stereo speakers
Battery
  • 5000 mAh - 25W
  • Wireless Fast Charge 2.0 15W
  • Wireless PowerShare 4.5W
Software and features
  • Android 11, OneUI 3.1
  • In-Display Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor
  • Samsung DeX
  • Bixby
  • Samsung Pay
  • Google Play Services
Measurements
  • 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm, 229g IP68
Price and availability
  • CLP $ 1,199,990 - USD $ 1,299
  • Phantom Black - Phantom Silver
Design and hardware

You're probably already used to huge phones, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is just one more of this trend that the industry has had in recent years, but despite its size and weight, Samsung's new Ultra does not turn out to be so uncomfortable in hand as it appears due to its design.

Its screen reaches 6.8 inches but the side edges are well done and its elongated form factor makes the phone not so difficult to maneuver. The edges of the S21 Ultra are slightly curved, and its metal frame has a non-slip feel that makes it feel firm, but gets fingerprinted very easily. 

Both sides of the phone are protected by Gorilla Glass Victus glass and the back has a matte finish that resists fingerprints super well, which is always appreciated and in this case gives it a super premium look.


At the back, Samsung has done something it has never done with its camera module, which protrudes a lot from the body of the phone in previous Ultra models, but this time they have integrated the edge of the phone into the camera module and despite that this sector of the metal frame becomes thicker, is a detail that improves the aesthetics of the phone.

Impossible not to talk about color, which Samsung gave a lot of "color" at the time of its presentation. We have seen many phones made of black glass and almost all of them have a glossy finish, but it seems to me that Samsung was the first to present a phone made of this material in black with a matte finish - I suppose it should not be easy to make it - And one who likes matte colors a lot, I think it is one of the most beautiful finishes I have seen on a phone, it looks simply beautiful and I would love to see more phones like that.

Likewise, why so much color if we are going to end up putting a case on top, since the resistance of this material I put it in doubt for a reason . I take a lot of care of phones and I'm super careful with the surfaces I put it on, and even so, the S21 Ultra scratched slightly on the back while I was taking pictures.

On the right side are the volume and power buttons, which have neither texture nor color to differentiate them, above are two microphones and below is one of the speakers, the SIM card slot and the USB-C port. In addition, the S21 Ultra is waterproof, having an IP68 certification. 



On the front is the second speaker and together they offer a super good stereo sound, in fact, it is absurdly good, even at high volumes the sound complies and is perfect for what the phone costs. The phone also supports Dolby Atmos to help automatically equalize and enhance sound depending on the content being played. The difference is slight but it is noticeable when activated. 

Under the screen is also located the new fingerprint sensor of the S21 line, which works much better than previous versions. In addition to having a larger area to place your finger, the sensor responds faster and being ultrasonic, it works with wet fingers. Well there Samsung, without a doubt, it is the best option in these times of mask use.

Screen

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 2X Dynamic AMOLED screen, whose resolution is QHD + (3200 x 1440 pixels) and also has a variable refresh rate, being able to go from 10Hz to 120Hz automatically and depending on the content on the screen. . 

In this way, the phone is able to save battery and offer a refresh rate of 120Hz along with the maximum resolution available on the phone, something that was impossible in the previous generation, which to operate at 120Hz had to do so in Full HD. Anyway, I still ended up using the phone in 1080p to save battery life, but I'll talk about that later.

Samsung also claims that the screen of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the brightest they have put in a phone and the 1500 nits that it reaches are noticeable . The screen looks super good in bright sunlight, maintaining excellent viewing angles and although colors vary a bit in these conditions, there is nothing to worry about.


On the other hand, Samsung has reduced its "Edge Display" as much as possible and the curvature of the screen is less than previous versions. Let's be honest, the curvature of the screens does not confer any benefit, in fact it only makes the colors and content on the screen look weird on the sides. Apparently Samsung has realized that, leaving a screen that is still slightly curved , but not even noticeable.

Another novelty of the screen of the new high-end Samsung is that it is compatible with the S Pen, although unlike the Note 20, the stylus is not built into the phone and is now sold separately in two versions, S Pen and S Pen Pro. The display has the exact same software features that the Notes have always had.

Performance

Complex issue that of performance, because as I already mentioned, the international version that arrives in Chile has the most recent Exynos 2100 processor , which was presented by Samsung in the previous CES 2021. Historically, Exynos processors have not had much good reputation compared to the Snapdragon model from the same year due to problems with the GPU and its tendency to overheat. 

The truth is that although they have been specific cases, I have had some problems for the same reason, especially when downloading many applications or charging the phone with a lot of heat, even the phone even notified me of not being able to use the camera because it was very hot. 

The same thing happened to me when testing games, playing Thumper or PUBG Mobile in high quality, the phone at five minutes was already hot enough to bother me and want to stop playing or use a control. I do not know if this will also happen in the Snapdragon model, but hey. 95% of the time I have not had any problems because I am not much to play , it is still important to comment.


Beyond that, and the most important thing is that obviously, the phone moves and feels extremely fast and without any type of lag, even running at the highest resolutions and refresh rates I have not had performance problems, app closing or things like that. The phone is very fluid and the amount of RAM is noticeable in daily use. 

Using Samsung DeX works extremely well, in fact we can perform interesting multitasking functions having a keyboard and a mouse connected to the TV, I mean, the phone is capable of running two interfaces simultaneously by being able to use the phone while streaming DeX to your TV. Power is plenty.


The Galaxy S21 Ultra also has WiFi 6E support and for the new 5G networks, which although they are not yet available in Chile and will probably be deployed in a decent way by 2022, it is important that phones start to have this technology to do so. more future-proof. In theory, this connectivity could mean higher battery drain as well.

Although for me it is not a problem because I am a cloud storage user and I think that with 128GB most people can survive without problems, it is important to mention that the Galaxy S21 Ultra no longer comes with a microSD card slot, so that if you use these cards to store data you will have to think about options. The 128GB version loses 31.19GB with the space used by the operating system and also the 108MP photos and 8K videos take up a lot of space, so if you need more storage, it would be best to invest even more in the 256GB version.

Battery

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a large 5000 mAh battery inside, which is higher in amperes than the vast majority of batteries in the smartphone market, and basically it is because the phone needs it to be able to give you the necessary hours moving with so much power the screen you have. 

Regarding autonomy, it will always depend on how the user uses the phone, but due to the variable refresh rate and the possibility of lowering the screen resolution to save battery, I have tested the phone in QHD + resolution (1440p) and in FHD + resolution (1080p) , always with the variable refresh rate active, which runs most of the time at 120Hz.

In the maximum resolution I have had some problems to reach the end of the day, but in Full HD resolution I have not had any problems. The battery life is not bad in maximum resolution, but if you do not want to be worried about the battery at any time, the healthiest thing is to lower it, overall it is not so much noticeable the difference in resolution, as if you notice not using the 120Hz . 

In general, the battery has given me an approximate autonomy of 17 hours, using the screen between 4:30 and 5:30 hrs .





Now the phone comes with 25W fast charging and 15W wireless charging, although I feel that it has not been as fast as it should be when using my 45W computer charger, since as you probably know, Samsung's new high-end It no longer comes with a charger in the box, following the trend of Apple, just as everyone thought. Like the previous generation, the Galaxy S21 Ultra can charge other devices wirelessly using the back as a pad.

But in the end, I feel that the whole charging process could be better and with faster charges like the ones that OnePlus, Xiaomi or Huawei phones have, which have reached charges of 60W or even 120W with cable and 40W with the Qi standard. wireless charging.

Cameras


It is a matter of looking at it, those cameras must do some wonder if they look that spectacular or not. Well, actually there are a lot of phones these days that have multiple large cameras and sensors, but here is pure quality, pure good, none of those 2MP macro lenses that are useless at all. 
The cameras of the Galaxy S21 Ultra do their name justice, they are large numbers and although it does not mean much - it is a thing to see the Pixel 5 - the quantity and quality make it the most versatile camera I have used in a phone. Its main lens is 108MP and is accompanied by a 12MP ultra-wide-angle sensor, and two 10 MP telephoto lenses, one with 3X zoom and the other with 10X. It should be noted that the photos taken with the 108MP sensor are reduced to a size of 12MP automatically, and the phone asks you to go to the highest amount of MP if necessary. Photos with the 40MP front sensor are saved in 10MP size.

Are you up to the competition? Yes, the S21 Ultra takes super good pictures, albeit with Samsung's classic color saturation. The photos have an excellent dynamic range , with a night mode that works automatically and with very good results, and you can even take excellent macro photos, without owning a dedicated lens .





Zoom photos deserve a separate point because the 10X periscope lens takes really impressive photos from far away from the lens, as long as there is daylight. I imagine the photos that can be taken at daytime concerts when this pandemic ends and makes me want to not return the S21.

I also liked the photographs with the ultra-wide-angle lens a lot, the colors look super good and natural, and that is something that I liked fed up with this camera system, since the four lenses do an excellent job of offering the same tonalities , without too many differences when changing lenses as occurs in many phones due to the poor quality they present with respect to the main sensor.

Regarding video recording, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is capable of recording in 8K at 24 frames per second and in 4K at 60fps with all its cameras , and as expected, the quality and stabilization are super good.

Here Samsung has introduced a couple of software-level features that are made possible by the phone's powerful processor. One of them is the Director View, which allows you to see in real time what the rest of the cameras see while recording in 1080p, being able to switch between them in the middle of the recording.

The second function is Single Shot , which allows you to take good quality photos automatically while recording a video, being able to choose to capture portrait photos, speed effects or enlarged photos, among others.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has one of the best cameras on the market due to its quality and versatility, offering an experience that almost no phone can currently provide. Mind you, the camera is overloaded with features just like the entire OneUI, and suddenly the simplest things work even better.

software

With the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung presents OneUI 3.1 , its customization layer that runs under Android 11 and that, as always, is packed to the brim with functions, but they have introduced new features in the user interface that are super attractive and that bring you closer to an experience a hair closer to "pure" Android.

OneUI 3.1 has almost all the news in notifications introduced by Google in Android 11 , - including the new notification center -, a new design for the volume control, they have "replaced" Samsung Daily by Samsung Free - in what seems to be just a rebranding– and also a number of new features in camera software.

The home screen remains the same, but something that I really liked is that Samsung has decided to implement the Google Discover feed to the left of the home screen, being able to choose between this and Samsung Free. If we add that the Messages app, Google Duo and other apps are now installed at the factory, they make the Galaxy S21 integrate much better into the Google ecosystem, without having so many duplicate apps.






It is also appreciated that Samsung has organized things much better throughout the operating system, and the thousands of options and functions that Samsung offers to personalize the phone are easier to find. It is up to each user to inquire into each of the customization options because there are really many.

Regarding that, I would have liked the factory experience to be more intuitive , without having to enter to modify the system so much to offer a clean experience and easier use, similar to that of the iPhone or Pixels, such as the navigation by gestures or the Google Feed itself, which are not activated by default. 

Worst of all, Bixby is still there even though Google Assistant now has more of a presence on the phone, Bixby is still the only assistant that can be invoked using the power button and have it there by having Google Assistant, which is still a lot. better, it really doesn't make any sense.





Although maybe it's just me and Samsung users are already used to all the experience that the phone brings by default. I still doubt that those people like the issue of advertising , which is suddenly a bit annoying that you get advertising that the latest phone or watch of the company was launched. 

Something that everyone should be grateful for is that Samsung has promised three years of software update for its devices, so the Galaxy S21 Ultra should receive Android 14 without any problem, and also the South Korean company has done quite well with the update times. in the last moment.

I only ask that Samsung put a greater effort in offering a clean, easy and intuitive experience, but I imagine that it must be difficult to develop software to enhance the South Korean ecosystem itself, in an operating system with services that are there to make it work. ecosystem of another company, in this case Google's.


Worth it?

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a phone that can be reproached for very few things, out there the software may not finish convincing some, but if we made a list of things that a high-end phone should have, the new Ultra meets them all.

The South Koreans offer what is, in my opinion, the most beautiful design they have made and a beautiful matte black color, it also has an excellent screen that can run at full resolution and with a high refresh rate, the Exynos processor delivers. great performance, the battery will last you all day and the camera is simply spectacular, offering zoom qualities that no other phone can offer with such quality.

Although they have made an attempt to integrate Google software that improves the experience in the Android ecosystem, OneUI continues to taint the experience a bit, by offering an absurd amount of functions that the user must investigate for hours to discover them all, and many of them for me it does not make any sense and they are redundant, because they try to enhance the Samsung ecosystem, as is the case with Bixby. Also, removing the microSD card slot could alienate some users.

If what you are looking for is a large phone with the best hardware available on the market, in many respects the Galaxy S21 Ultra is even better than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and it is without a doubt the best that is available on Android, although sometimes the best experience doesn't just depend on great hardware.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a phone that lives up to its name and is still worth the money. You can buy it in Chile at a price that starts at CLP $ 1,199,000.




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