I think many people who like the new Galaxy S21 series of smartphones because of its design. And for this review, we’re going to go review it and see what Samsung offers from their new Ultra flagship.
We’re tackling the review in a few parts – just like how we review other phones – but we also have another review of the Exynos 2100 chipset alone, where we talk about the Exynos 2100 only, and finally – an early look into the gaming performance of the Exynos 2100, but games still haven’t optimized for the Exynos 2100 just yet.
Again, the first distinct thing about the Galaxy S21 series of smartphones is the design. It’s bold and new, yet it looks absolutely stunning – especially the new Phantom Black color. The matte finish is a lot finer compared to the Galaxy Note20 series of smartphones and it has a very sleek, elegant, yet professional look. I honestly, can’t get my eyes off the new Phantom Black color since I first saw it with my own two eyes.
I also had fingerprints on the Galaxy S21 Ultra thanks to my super sweaty and greasy fingertips – but because of how the matte finish of the Phantom Black is made, I can just give it a wipe and my fingerprint is gone.
And of course, the new camera cutout. Instead of making the camera bump jut out like it’s an afterthought, Samsung’s new design is to make the entire camera bump – no matter how big – be a part of the phone’s design language. That’s why it looks like the entire camera bump melts into the phone’s frame – but it’s not. There is a small seam around the camera, which allows servicing if the back or the camera breaks.
And with the design comes the new cameras. There are a total of 4 cameras this time, we have the usual ultrawide angle camera, main camera, and double telephoto cameras this time – one at 3x zoom and another at 10x zoom. And we also have a laser autofocus module.
To see all the pictures taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, watch our review video at the top of this review.
And to view all of the beautiful contents that you’ve filmed, the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with the Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen. Samsung did a bunch of claims regarding how beautiful the screen is – but since we now have the color calibrator ourselves, we tested it out.
First, we tested it at the “standard” color profile and found out that it covers 98.88% sRGB color gamut with an average ΔE 0.08.
But when we turn it to the “vivid” color profile, it goes all the way to up 100% sRGB color gamut coverage, and covers 99.76% of DCI-P3 color space, with ΔE of 0.11.
For some people, the standard color profile will be plentiful while the vivid color profile looks oversaturated – and now we know why since the “vivid” color profile is actually DCI-P3 color space.
This is a magnificent display, to say the least. Let’s not forget that it is also able to go up to 120Hz at its max 1440p resolution. While I personally find it unnecessary, I understand that some of you want this feature.
But with such a high-resolution display at such high refresh rates, how is it going to affect the battery life?
Battery life & charging speed
With its 5,000mAh battery, I honestly don’t think anyone will have a problem with its battery life for day-to-day use at all. But from our battery life test using PCMark at 100 nits brightness average, the battery life changes in an interesting pattern when we tested 1440p and 1080p at both 60Hz and 120Hz.
From the results that we got, it seems like the resolution doesn’t affect the battery life that much, but the refresh rate makes a big impact.
Now, as for charging speed – we used our 65W GaN charger from Ugreen as our standard charger since the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra supports USB-PD PPS. It charges from 15% to 100% battery in about 75 minutes – which is surprisingly efficient.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra can only go up to 25W max but it’s faster than other phones with a 33W charger.
We did a separate article where we compare and contrast the performance of the Exynos 2100 vs the Exynos 990 vs Snapdragon 865. We do not have a Snapdragon 888 phone yet, so we can’t add that to the comparison.
We’re still plenty surprised by the Exynos 2100, to say the least.
And if you want to check out the gaming performance of the Exynos 2100, watch this video instead.
The new Galaxy S21 Ultra is using UFS 3.1 NAND flash chips which provides a considerable amount of speed improvement over the Galaxy Note20’s UFS 3.0. And with that said, Samsung also removed the microSD card slot from the phone.
While it is very inconvenient, I do understand why. There’s a huge speed discrepancy between internal UFS storage and microSD cards. So, if you want to do something that requires high speed in both random 4K read and write speeds and also sequential read/write speeds, the internal UFS storage is much better.
Let’s not forget about the SD card standard, in general, is just really convoluted and confusing at this point.
Few more things to mention – the fingerprint scanner is now bigger and more reliable in terms of knowing that it has scanned. The fingerprint speed though… does feel faster but not really that much faster. We’ll definitely try it more in the days to come.
Software – Android 11 with One UI 3.1
Of course, there’s the software. It’s running the latest One UI 3.1 but generally, it looks and functions more or less the same as One UI 3.0. There are a few new features on the camera app and the gallery – particularly the new spot removal tool which works similarly to how Photoshop’s content-aware removal works.
There are some other new hardware-based features like UWB support, all of those things.
I also want to quickly mention the S Pen support here. The optional S Pen that is available for this Galaxy S21 Ultra does not support BLE, which means no air gesture like what the Note series currently has.
But, Samsung also caught us all by surprise when they announced the S Pen Pro which does support BLE.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra?
And obviously – the last point that we really need to discuss about is the price. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, for us here in Malaysia, starts from 12GB RAM + 256GB storage version at RM5,299 here in Malaysia. I mean, there’s no denying that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is expensive. Like what we’ve said last year for the Galaxy S20 Ultra – you’re paying the price to be on the cutting edge of technology – and technology development & advancement.
Still, if you spend that amount on a smartphone – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Where to buy? (Affiliate links)
- Amazon US