Getting started with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: the evolution is in the details


The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the new star among the high-end smartphones of the Korean manufacturer. While it has just been formalized, we had the opportunity to take it in hand.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra en main et vu de dos

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in hand, seen from the back // Source: Frandroid

Here we are! Samsung inaugurates its new generation of high-end smartphones by unveiling its trio of S21 . And obviously, in the lot, we find the Galaxy S21 Ultra. As expected, this smartphone is not a clean sweep of the past by offering an incredibly innovative smartphone.

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In 2021, Samsung’s objective seems rather to confirm certain achievements and to refine some details to offer a smartphone a priori very well mastered, but not surprisingly. Let’s explain this reflection through our handling of the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra datasheet

Model Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
OS version Android 11
Manufacturer interface One UI
Screen size 6.8 inch
Definition 3200 x 1440 pixels
Pixel density 515 dpi
Technology Super AMOLED
SoC Exynos 2100
Graphics Chip (GPU) Mali-G78 MP14
Random access memory (RAM) 12 GB, 16 GB
Internal memory (flash) 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
Camera (back) Sensor 1: 108 Mpx
Sensor 2: 12 Mpx
Sensor 3: 10 Mpx
Sensor 4: 10 Mpx
Camera (front) 40 Mpx
Video recording 8K @ 30 fps
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.1
Supported bands 2100 MHz (B1), 800 MHz (B20), 1800 MHz (B3), 2600 MHz (B7), 700 MHz (B28)
Fingerprint sensor Under the screen
Ports (inputs / outputs) USB Type-C
Battery 5000 mAh
Dimensions 75.6 x 165.1 x 8.9mm
Weight 228 grams
Colors Black, Silver
Price 1259 €
Product sheet
See the test

The matte leg and the jostling module

After the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra then the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in bronze, it is the turn of the Galaxy S21 to taste the delicious matte finish concocted by Samsung in 2020 On the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the glass on the back surface therefore offers a satin feel and is very pleasant in the hand. It’s always a success.

This novelty is therefore welcome, but for the moment there is no material to discuss up and down: we have already had to deal with this finish at Samsung which allows the passage to limit traces of fingers. The South Korean giant has therefore not taken the risk after meeting with critical success. Special mention to the impeccable matte black version that seduces with its elegant sobriety.

Les Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus et Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 + and Ultra // Source: Frandroid

So let’s move on to the other aesthetic evolution offered by this Galaxy S21 Ultra: the rear photo module. The leaks leading up to formalization showed it clearly: the rectangular, vertical block rolls up along the left side of the phone to conform to its shape. This allows the module in question to appear less protruding… to a certain extent.

Indeed, we must not hide the fact: the rear photo module of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is massive.

Module photo du Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The photo module of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra // Source: Frandroid

We cannot hide this detail. Simply, as the aluminum block blends more fluidly into the also metal frame of the smartphone, this imposing aspect is a tad diminished. At least it worked on me.

This will not be enough to cover up the very wide apertures seen on the camera. This was probably the first thing that jumped out at me. Indeed, the Galaxy S21 Ultra proudly sports its five sensors (including an imposing ToF) accompanied by a flash and stands out at a glance from its two little brothers.

Module photo du Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vu de haut

The photo module of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra blends into the frame of the smartphone // Source: Frandroid

Continuing the owner’s tour, nothing really comes as a surprise on this Galaxy S21 Ultra. The screen is slightly curved – I emphasize “slightly” – at the edges and is pierced in the middle of the forehead by a fairly small punch. In the panel, on the lower part, hides the fingerprint reader 65% larger than on the previous generation.

Overall, the Galaxy S21 Ultra remains a beautiful baby, weighing 228 grams and measuring 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm.

Les trois Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 + and S21 Ultra aligned side by side // Source: Frandroid

For the screen: no surprise with AMOLED and a diagonal of 6.8 inches. The 120 Hz mode also becomes adaptive here – as on the Note 20 Ultra – and even works with the maximum definition WQHD +. It’s as nice as on the brand’s smartphones released in 2020 in terms of fluidity.

MicroSD drawer and jack are missing, while there is a USB-C port and IP68 certified water resistance. Gorilla Glass 7 protects the front and rear of the ship.

Photo: the same recipe only better

The Galaxy S21 Ultra takes again the bases posed by the S20 Ultra in photo, but improves the recipe. Samsung already indicates that it has used second generation sensors and explains that this will, among other things, give more depth to the colors and better manage the night mode. So many things that will obviously have to be tested to confirm or deny the manufacturer’s claims.

Module photo du Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has an impressive photo module // Source: Frandroid

We therefore find a main sensor of 108 megapixels (f / 1.8) equivalent 24 mm allowing to record videos in 8K and to take pictures in 108 Mpx for better sharpness. Otherwise, by default, you will have 12 Mpx brighter shots thanks to the nona binning process which merges nine pixels into one. The rest of the configuration looks like this:

  • 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle (f / 2.2), 120 degrees, 13mm equivalent;
  • 10 megapixel x3 telephoto (f / 2.4) 72mm equivalent;
  • 10-megapixel x10 telephoto lens (f / 4.9) equivalent to 240mm;
  • ToF sensor.

The presence of two telephoto lenses allows the smartphone to be even more versatile in the exercise of the zoom, which Samsung intends to refine again and again. The S21 Ultra also signals the return of x100 digital zoom – still a gadget, but still so fun to test.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra module protubérant

The photo module of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is quite protruding // Source: Frandroid

Good to know: the two telephoto lenses and the ultra wide angle now benefit from Dual Pixel technology for better autofocus.

The smartphone also tastes some new software in photo and video. Thus, recordings in 4K at 60 fps are available on all sensors and the super stabilized mode also works at 60 fps now. That’s not all: the Zoom Lock function makes it easier to take pictures beyond 20x magnification.

Zoom Lock Samsung

The Galaxy S21’s Zoom Lock function allows you to improve the sharpness of very zoomed photos // Source: Frandroid

It is enough to stop (more or less) moving your hand for the smartphone to understand that it must freeze the image and allow you to take the picture. It also works by tapping the preview that is displayed in the skylight.

Also, you can count on a director mode that allows you to shoot while knowing what the other sensors are seeing at the same time. So if you want to switch from one focal length to the other, you can do so knowing in advance if this toggle is relevant or if you are going in front of a poorly framed shot.

It sounds a bit like a control room behind the scenes of a television set, proportionately. For selfies, there is a 40 megapixel (f / 2.2) front sensor equivalent to 25 mm.

An Exynos 2100 up to the task?

Two days before the official launch of its new smartphones, Samsung introduced the chip that powers European models: the Exynos 2100 . Suffice to say that the latter has a reputation to restore after the disappointment of its predecessor the Exynos 990 in terms of energy efficiency.

Engraved in 5 nanometers, this Exynos 2100 seems ready to take up this perilous challenge and we are crossing our fingers very, very hard so that it can offer a good competition to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 – or even, we never know, of surpass it. Dreaming doesn’t hurt… not too much.

Les trois Samsung Galaxy S21 de dos

The three Samsung Galaxy S21 from the back // Source: Frandroid

For autonomy, the smartphone does not rely only on the SoC, but also on its battery of course. This has a capacity of 5000 mAh and is compatible with a fast charge of 25 W. Nothing new under the sun on this side except the fact that Samsung imitates Apple and no longer provides the charger in the box for official environmental and unofficial economic reasons. You will have to make do with a USB-C to USB-C cable.

Is the S Pen worth it?

On the software side, all S21s take advantage of Android 11 with the One UI 3.1 interface while other updated smartphones from the brand taste version 3.0. The difference in reality mainly concerns the photo and video novelties mentioned just above. The real notable difference of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is its compatibility with S Pen styluses.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra et stylet S Pen

The S Pen stylus is not supplied with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra // Source: Frandroid

If you have an old Note line smartphone lying around or if you are using a Samsung tablet with a stylus, you will be able to use the S Pen again on this new device. This is always practical and we also benefit from a latency of only 9 ms as on the Note 20 Ultra. So I have no particular problem in terms of comfort.

Be careful, that said, there are two little thoughts to add to our thinking. First, without dedicated storage for the stylus in question, the Galaxy S21 Ultra was not designed for this purpose.

Stylet S Pen sur Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The S Pen stylus works on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra // Source: Frandroid

You will therefore have to store your S Pen, recovered or purchased separately, each time as you can. A shell provided for this purpose is offered by Samsung, but this represents an additional cost to be taken into account.

Second, the use of an S Pen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra will be without the Bluetooth functions allowing the stylus to be used as a remote control to control the smartphone remotely with Air Gestures. The users who find their account in this way will probably not be in the majority, but I could be wrong.

Coque pour Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The S Pen stylus can be stored in a shell purchased separately for the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra // Source: Frandroid

Let us not forget to mention either that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is compatible with the 5G network , the Wi-Fi 6E , Bluetooth 5.2 and enjoys the Ultra Wide Band (UWB).

The upheaval is not now

We are approaching the end of this grip. If you have read it carefully, you will no doubt have noticed that surprise is not the watchword of this smartphone. Beyond the fact that 99% of the information was leaked before officialization, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is not intended to be in the rupture.

Its fully assumed objective is simply to replay the score already well conducted by its predecessor by adding a few notes to make the melody more pleasant. And to speak in a more down to earth way, let’s just say that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is shaping up to be one of the best devices of the year – there is little doubt at the moment – but it not worth changing your smartphone if you bought yours in 2020, because it won’t mess up a thing.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is available in three versions, the recommended prices of which are:

  • 1259 euros for the version with 12 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage;
  • 1309 euros for the 12/256 GB version;
  • 1439 euros for the 16/512 GB version.

Everything will be available in France from January 29 and two colors will be available: black and silver. As for pre-orders, they start today and run until the 28th. For the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, this offer includes a Galaxy SmartTag and a pair of Galaxy Buds Pro headphones.

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