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 Home» Reviews» Mobile Reviews» Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: Finally Living Up to the Expectation

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review: Finally Living Up to the Expectation

Pros

  • Best 120Hz AMOLED Panel
  • Outstanding Cameras
  • Very Good Performance
  • Decent Battery Life
  • One UI Experience is Excellent

Cons

  • Exynos still behind the Snapdragon variant

Samsung Nepal recently launched the Samsung S21 series and among them, Samsung S21 Ultra is the company’s ultimate flagship. It comes as an upgrade to the Samsung S20 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung’s ultimate flagship that is rocking a 120Hz 1440p display, Exynos 2100 chipset, 108MP quad-camera setup, and 5000 mAh battery.

I have been using this for almost a month and it is the best phone I have ever used. Let’s see why!

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Specifications

  • Body: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm, 227 g (Sub6), 229 g (mmWave), IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins), Stylus Support
  • Display: 6.8 inches, 1440 x 3200 pixels, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits (peak)
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass Victus (front & back)
  • Chipset: Exynos 2100 (5 nm)
  • CPU: Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Memory: 12GB RAM, 256GB, UFS 3.1
  • OS: Android 11, One UI 3.1
  • Rear Camera: 108 MP (2nd gen), f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
    • 10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
    • 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
    • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
    • Video: [email protected], [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
  • Front Camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8″, 0.7µm, PDAF
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery, Fast Charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging 4.5W
  • Misc: Fingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
  • Colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Price in Nepal: Rs. 1,54,999 (12/256GB)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Review

Design

  • 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
  • 227 g (Sub6), 229 g (mmWave)
  • IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
  • Stylus Support

Samsung S21 Ultra takes the design of the Note 20 Ultra and improves on it. The camera module has now been extended to the side frame. To be fair I like it, it looks smoother and more elegant.

On the back, it has a new haze finish on top of the glass back. The phantom black definitely looks stunning and the matte finish makes it premium.

The glass back is protected by the Gorilla Glass Victus. I have dropped the phone couple of times but there are no scratches on either the rear panel or the frame. It is also IP68 rated for water and dust resistance.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Design

On the front, it has a hole-punch in the middle of the screen. The bezels are slightly reduced and the screen is slightly curved as opposed to flat screens of the S21 and S21 Plus.

As usual, S21 Ultra gets an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and it is 1.5 times larger than the previous generation. It works better but it might still miss-read your fingerprint. But, not as often as the Note 20’s sensor.

ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: A Near Perfect Affordable Flagship

So, what’s missing this year is a micro SD card and if you’re a prosumer then you will definitely miss this. There was a moment when I tried to insert a microSD card to upload videos when I didn’t have my laptop just to realize that it doesn’t have a micro SD slot.

Best High Refresh Rate AMOLED Display

  • 6.8 inches, 1440 x 3200 pixels
  • Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1500 nits (peak)
  • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus (front & back)

The good news is that Samsung has finally enabled the high refresh rate option on QHD resolution. It features a 6.8 inches Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with a screen resolution of 1440 x 3200 pixels.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Display

The QHD panel looks stunning along with the high refresh rate smoothness. It is definitely the best smartphone display.

The colors of the AMOLED panel are as you expect from Samsung with a saturated profile. It has a peak brightness of 1400 nits and it is easily usable outdoors. However, the 1400 nits brightness is only enabled in HDR contents. The front glass is also protected by Gorilla Glass Victus.

The 120Hz refresh rate feels slick and smooth. The adaptive display can change the refresh rate from 10 Hz to 120Hz according to content but mostly the refresh rate changes between 60 and 120.

When you’re using apps or scrolling the content, the screen stays at 120Hz. Then it goes down to 60 when you are idle for 3-4 seconds. Also, watching standard YouTube videos keeps the screen at 60Hz.

Exynos 2100 is Behind But it Doesn’t Disappoint

  • Exynos 2100 (5 nm)
  • Octa-core (1×2.9 GHz Cortex-X1 & 3×2.80 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.2 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • 12GB RAM, 256GB, UFS 3.1

Exynos 2100 is a 5nm chipset that is similar to the Snapdragon 888. Both of them use the same architecture and CPU. The major difference is their GPU.

Exynos 2100 uses ARM’s X1 prime core clocked at up to 2.91 GHz alongside a trio of Cortex-A78 cores running at 2.8GHz and four power-efficient Cortex-A55 cores working at 2.21GHz. It uses the ARM Mali-G78MP14 GPU. Along with this, it now has 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.

Exynos 2100

If you look at it, Samsung has even managed to clock the CPU higher than the Snapdragon 888. In terms of benchmark, it was able to get a single-core score of 1069 and a multi-core score of 3213 on GeekBench. If you look up the score of Snapdragon 888, then it is higher than that of the Exynos 2100.

In real-world performance, the Exynos 2100 can hold its own and provide a good flagship-level experience. It doesn’t face the same issues as the Exynos 990 did. Just like any other brand new flagships, it can run PUBG Mobile and COD Mobile on max fps settings.

PUBG Mobile runs on extreme fps at smooth graphics and it maintains the 60 fps quite consistently. I was very happy with its long-run performances.

As for COD Mobile, you can play at max fps settings at Very High graphics, and it does an excellent job of maintaining 60fps. While TDM modes are much smoother, you will notice rare frame drops to 55fps in Battle Royale.

With the Exynos 2100, overheating and throttling aren’t an issue anymore. Both of the aforementioned games were able to maintain good frame rate even after 1 hour of gaming. Even though it lags behind the Snapdragon 888, the real-world performance seems to be good.

Improved Camera Setup

  • Rear Camera: 108 MP (2nd gen), f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
    • 10 MP, f/4.9, 240mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
    • 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
    • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
    • Video: [email protected][email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS
  • Front Camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.8″, 0.7µm, PDAF

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is rocking 4 cameras on the rear with a 108MP main sensor, a 10MP telephoto lens with 10X optical zoom, a 10MP telephoto lens with 3X Optical Zoom, and a 12MP Ultrawide angle sensor. Furthermore, it comes with laser autofocus for improved autofocus.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Rear Camera

The new 108MP HM3 sensor used on the S21 Ultra is improved in all the departments and doesn’t have the problem that haunted the S20 Ultra. It even uses 9 to 1 pixel binning that provides better detail. Each pixel carries more detail and helps to capture more detailed photos overall. Furthermore, it also uses 12-bit HDR by combining two 10-bit frames for a wider dynamic range.

ALSO READ: Samsung Mobiles Price in Nepal: Features and Specs

NORMAL DAYLIGHT PHOTOS

Samsung S21 Ultra has an outstanding dynamic range on offer. The detail level is very good in daylight pictures with pretty much non-existent noise. If you pixel peep then you will see that sharpening is a bit excessive but white balance and color accuracy are quite good. As surprising as it might sound, Samsung has decided to not go overboard with saturated color on the S21 Ultra.

This time around, 108MP shots also offer HDR and the images have little to sacrifice. If you zoom in, the 108MP shots will look slightly soft and will have slight noise.

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ULTRAWIDE PHOTOS

The images from the 12MP Ultrawide angle sensor are good-looking with accurate colors and good contrast. The dynamic range of the ultrawide angle sensor is very good and there’s not much noise even if you zoom in on the pictures.

The ultrawide angle sensor comes with autofocus that helps in taking close-up shots. So you can take sharp macro shots with sharp colors and very good detail.

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ZOOM PHOTOS

The 3X zoom photos have good details to be fair. They look almost as good as the photos from the main sensor with accurate colors and noise is also on the lower side. Dynamic range is excellent as it is with all the sensors on the S21 Ultra.

Well, you will notice slight over-processing as it upscales and sharpens the 3X zoom photos.

The 10X zoom photos have a similar result. The detail is average and is good enough. Dynamic range is unquestionably good with accurate colors and good contrast.

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Samsung has nailed the zoom photos this time to be fair. You can go up to 100X zoom but I would not use the 20X, 30X zoom levels because the detail isn’t that good. But it is still good if you want to take a closer look at something far in the distance.

Also, you can take decent moon shots with the 30X and 100X zoom as Samsung has special post-processing for moon shots. In addition, the new zoom lock feature helps you capture these long zoom shots as it helps the phone to lock on the subjects.

PORTRAIT MODE

There are two zoom levels on the portrait mode. The main 108MP sensor captures portrait mode with excellent subject detection and the subject separation is outstanding. The background blur looks natural, and the effect is perfect.

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LOW LIGHT PHOTOS

Low light photos are good and I’m just nagging a bit by saying that it feels like it lacks detail. But that’s because it captures images at high ISO and the shutter speed doesn’t go as low as it can in Normal mode with the scene optimizer turned on. The ultrawide photos have similar behavior as you can notice noise and the photos look a bit darker.

However, night mode makes it right! The exposure time is set automatically according to the situation. The photos captured with night mode have a good amount of sharpness with really nice detail. The noise level is reduced and it manages to control the highlights really well. The color is well balanced too.

You can use night mode with zoom photos as well and the results are quite good. The 3X photos will have good details with night mode turned on and the exposure is also good. With the 10X, the low light photos are just fine and the night mode doesn’t make it significantly better this time. It lifts the shadows and corrects exposure but this might result in slightly blurry photos sometimes.

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FRONT CAMERA

The 40MP sensor captures really good selfies. The detail level is nice and the dynamic range is also good. The color profile also leans towards the natural side. You can also capture 40MP photos and it can capture really nice detail.

Similarly, the portrait selfies also look incredible with convincing background blur.

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Videos

S21 Ultra is capable of 8k24 fps videos just like other phones in the S21 series. The videos look decent but its usability is the main question.

You can capture 4k60fps videos from all the sensors and videos look good. The 4k 60fps videos trade smoothness for loss in detail. 4k 30fps videos have really nice detail with excellent dynamic range and good colors. On top of that, you get OIS and you can use EIS as well.

Battery

  • Non-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery
  • Fast Charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0

Samsung S21 Ultra is equipped with a 5000 mAh battery which will last you a day even with a 120Hz refresh rate.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Charging Port
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Charging Port

I have been using the S21 Ultra on the QHD display and adaptive refresh rate. On average, I have been getting around 6-7 hours of screen on time with this setup.

As for the charging, Samsung claims that the 25W charger can charge it from 0 to 100 in about 1 hour and 11 mins.

Software

On the software side of things, it has Android 11 along with One UI 3.1. One of the cosmetic changes that you will immediately notice is the new notification shade. It is now transparent and you can easily add a notification toggle with the plus button at the end.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Software
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra OS

Some of the other major change comes in terms of camera features. It has improved the single-take feature and the new director mode is probably the best addition. You can now easily switch between all three lenses on a fly. Moreover, you can capture from the front camera simultaneously with this feature.

Then there’s the zoom lock. This feature helps to stabilize the camera when capturing zoomed-in pictures.

Final Thoughts

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra takes the design of the Note 20 Ultra and makes it even better. The new camera contour cut design and the haze finish look gorgeous. The 120Hz 1440p display provides an immaculate visual experience. It is definitely the best display out there.

Performance-wise, it does well in games and the problem that haunted the Exynos version of Note 20 Ultra doesn’t seem to be the problem anymore. While Exynos 2100 is a good improvement over the Exynos 990, it is still behind the Snapdragon variant.

Samsung S21 Ultra is definitely the best flagship phone out there and its camera is surely one of the best if not the best!

What’s your take on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra? Let us know in the comments below!

READ NEXT: Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: A Near Perfect Affordable Flagship

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