The Galaxy S21 Ultra will get a recent design and sports activities a beautiful black end.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, unveiled alongside Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus telephones, proves that generally you need to do one thing twice to get it proper. While simply as daring as final yr’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, the S21 Ultra is a refined second tackle the Ultra idea. There’s nonetheless the 100x Space Zoom, but it surely’s simpler to make use of. There remains to be the “big for the sake of being big” design, but it surely seems far more interesting. And there’s nonetheless a excessive worth, however at $1,200 (£1,149, AU$1,849) it prices $200 lower than the S20 Ultra in the US. The entire Galaxy S21 lineup is accessible to buy — this is how one can purchase one.

If you need the best possible specs and options, the S21 Ultra will undoubtedly appear interesting. The phone will even entice digital camera nerds, because of the enhancements Samsung made to the cameras. And with the addition of S-Pen assist — it is the first Galaxy S phone to make use of the stylus — the S21 Ultra will possible catch the eye of Galaxy Note customers trying for a unique possibility.

Read extra: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. S21 Plus vs. S21 Ultra


  • Gorgeous phantom black end
  • Two telephoto cameras
  • The display screen is spectacular
  • S-Pen assist

Don’t Like

  • It’s heavy
  • Lacks a microSD card slot
  • $1,200 remains to be costly

Last yr’s Ultra mannequin, on the different hand, appeared prefer it got here out of nowhere. It was a phone all about extra that, by sheer destiny, was launched at the starting of a world pandemic and recession. Its daring, behemoth tackle the Galaxy S line was undercut by its $1,400 (£1,199, AU$1,999) worth and points with its practically domino-sized digital camera system.

Overall, the S21 Ultra is a significant replace each by way of {hardware} and software program options over the S20 Ultra. And while you consider a lower cost, all of it type of is smart.

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We evaluate the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and its bonkers cameras


The Galaxy S21 Ultra has the finest black end

I would not name the S21 Ultra’s design radically completely different, however my evaluate unit has the finest black end I’ve ever seen on a phone. It’s the stuff that goth goals are fabricated from. The colour known as phantom black, and while you see it in particular person you instantly perceive why Samsung made a practically 3-minute video explaining what went into making the blackest black. The S21 Ultra additionally is available in phantom silver and there are limited-edition phantom finishes in titanium, brown and navy, which may solely be discovered on Samsung’s web site.

The digital camera bump is giant and melts into the sides of the phone, that are shiny black. And whereas the common S21 and S21 Plus are snazzy of their two-tone colours, the all-black S21 Ultra seems cool, elegant and badass all at the similar time.

The S21 Ultra is a bit heavier than final yr’s S20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s the second heaviest phone I’ve utilized in the previous yr, simply behind the Asus ROG Phone 3.

The show is brighter and provides S-Pen assist

Around the entrance is one among the most spectacular shows I’ve seen. It has a Wide Quad HD decision and a variable refresh charge between 10 and 120Hz, which is set by what’s on the display screen. And simply to be clear, you possibly can have 120Hz and never take a success on decision like the S20 Ultra did. The 6.8-inch show is brilliant and the distinction is beautiful. Covering the display screen, and the again. is Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus.

Under the display screen is a bigger ultrasonic fingerprint reader which feels peppy. I had a tough time telling if it was truly sooner than the one on the S20 Ultra. The show additionally has S-Pen assist.


Support for the S-Pen means you possibly can draw, write, edit images and signal paperwork on the S21 Ultra.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I’ve all the time been tempted by the Galaxy Note line of telephones, however I wasn’t positive I’d use the S-Pen sufficient to justify getting one. But I like the iPad Pro-Apple Pencil method Samsung took right here. Without an S-Pen, you may nonetheless take pleasure in utilizing the S21 Ultra. But in the event you’re S-Pen curious, you should purchase a brand new one or discover an outdated S-Pen. And there’s quite a bit you are able to do, like draw, take notes and signal paperwork. I like enhancing images and making changes with the S-Pen.

I ought to notice there are a number of concerns. The S21 Ultra would not include an S-Pen and would not assist Bluetooth or gesture performance. For instance, the S21 Ultra cannot ship you a notification in the event you depart your pen behind. Also the Ultra would not have a built-in slot to retailer an S-Pen, however Samsung can be promoting circumstances for it that embody S-Pen storage.

The S21 Ultra has 2 telephoto cameras

The S21 Ultra’s digital camera system obtained a number of vital updates. There are 4 rear cameras: one vast, one ultrawide and two telephoto cameras. The time-of-flight sensor is gone and instead there’s laser autofocus.

The 108-megapixel sensor on the predominant digital camera is new and it has higher autofocus for each images and movies. There’s even a brand new focus enhancer device that pops up onscreen to assist the phone discover focus even sooner for images. The device seems prefer it may be switching to a wider view to take action.


There are 4 rear cameras: vast, ultrawide and two telephotos.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The dual-telephoto cameras are a primary on any phone and add a number of advantages. One has 3x magnification and the different 10x. This means while you zoom in, there are two locations in your zoom vary the place the picture is not being cropped the place your photograph can have higher picture high quality. Another profit is stability. The two cameras are paired collectively to assist make zooming in, even at 100x, simpler and extra regular.

At 30x, a zoom information pops up that will help you discover the specific spot that you simply’re zoomed in at. You can lock it so it would not transfer, which turns the information yellow. This works properly. Obviously you continue to should watch out to not transfer the digital camera round an excessive amount of, but it surely’s much less finicky and irritating than the S20 Ultra.

Photos from the S21 Ultra are glorious, with good element and a large dynamic vary. There is a 108-megapixel mode, however I discovered the 12-megapixel images coming from pixel binning look constantly nice.

Below are a number of images I took with the S21 Ultra.


I took this with the predominant digital camera set to 12 megapixels, which makes use of pixel binning to mix 9 pixels into one.

Patrick Holland/CNET


One advantage of pixel binning is that it may deliver out the particulars in a photograph. Notice the completely different textures and particulars.

Patrick Holland/CNET


I used single-take mode in the digital camera app to seize images and movies of this cute little canine. Here’s one among the photos my S21 Ultra selected.

Patrick Holland/CNET


There’s a lot for the S21 Ultra to seize appropriately right here: The barren tree branches, the water and the white fluffy clouds in the blue sky.

Patrick Holland/CNET


Here are three completely different images I took from the very same spot utilizing the vast 1x digital camera (left), the 3x telephoto digital camera (center) and the 10x telephoto digital camera (proper).

Patrick Holland/CNET

In low gentle, night time mode is excellent. Flaring on the lens is minimized and images look brilliant and not using a bunch of picture noise or noise-reduction smearing. Below are a number of night time mode images I took:


This was taken with night time mode and may be my favourite photograph of the bunch.

Patrick Holland/CNET


Here’s one other night time mode seize. I like how the S21 Ultra introduced the colours in the sculpture out.

Patrick Holland/CNET


You can use night time mode on any digital camera. I took this shot with the ultrawide digital camera in night time mode.

Patrick Holland/CNET

For selfies there’s the similar 40-megapixel digital camera as the S20 Ultra. But you now have an possibility to alter the colour tone to both brilliant or pure which is superb.


Here is a selfie I took with the pure setting.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Samsung additionally added the means to take uncooked 12-bit colour images. And there is a new video characteristic known as Director’s View, which supplies you a thumbnail preview of the video feeds coming from all of the cameras on the telephones. As you document, you possibly can change between them. Within Director’s View there is a vlogger setup that provides you a side-by-side video view or a stacked one in the event you’re capturing vertically. This means you possibly can document your self with the selfie digital camera and present what you are seeing or reacting to from any of the rear cameras.

On paper, Director’s View appeared like one thing I’d strive as soon as however not likely use. But after a while utilizing it, I can undoubtedly see some individuals being into this characteristic. If there’s a draw back to Director’s View it is that the remaining video is saved in HD as a substitute of 4K or 8K. I’d like to see this thumbnail preview interface when recording an everyday 4K video.

I’m excited to pit the S21 Ultra and its cameras in opposition to the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Google Pixel 5. Each phone takes a unique method to images and every will attraction to completely different individuals.

S21 Ultra has a Snapdragon 888 chip and 12 or 16GB of RAM

Powering the S21 Ultra is the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, together with 12GB of RAM, or 16GB in the costliest mannequin with 512GB of storage (see the chart under for costs). In my benchmark checks, the S21 Ultra scored higher than final yr’s S20 Ultra. And in use, it dealt with all the pieces I threw at it, even enjoying Xbox Game Pass Ultimate video games on it.

Supplying juice to the phone is a 5,000-mAh battery. I’ve simply been averaging a day and a half on a single cost. That mentioned, I nonetheless have a lot of battery checks to place the S21 Ultra by. Please verify again to this evaluate for updates.


You can use the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate app to play Xbox video games in your S21 Ultra.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Below are the outcomes of my benchmark checks for the S21 Ultra.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore


Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Android 11 and 5G assist

The Galaxy S21 Ultra runs Android 11 with Samsung’s OneUI 3.1 high layer. And I prefer it quite a bit. I can now default to Google Pay or Google Discover News feed, as a substitute of Samsung’s variations. The look for all the pieces from settings to pop-up home windows is clear and up to date. And with a phone this huge, OneUI helps make it simpler to make use of one-handed.

Last, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has 5G and helps each sub-6 and mmWave flavors of 5G. You should not get the Ultra for its 5G. But as 5G networks get higher, so will your 5G speeds and connection. And then we’ll actually have one thing to speak about.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy Note 20
Display measurement, decision 6.8-inch AMOLED 2X, 3,200×1,440 pixels 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.9-inch; 3,088×1,440 pixels 6.7-inch; 2,400×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 515 ppi 511ppi 496ppi 393ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.97×6.5×0.35 in 2.99×6.57×0.35 in 6.49×3.04×0.31 in 6.36×2.96×0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 75.6×165.1×8.9mm 76.0×166.9×8.8mm 164.8×77.2×8.1mm 161.6×75.2×8.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 8.07 oz; 229g 7.76 oz; 220g 7.33 oz, 208g 6.84 oz, 194g
Mobile software program Android 11 Android 10 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 10-megapixel (3x telephoto), 10-megapixel (10x telephoto) 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight digital camera 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (vast angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing digital camera 40-megapixel 40-megapixel 10-megapixel 10-megapixel
Video seize 8K 8K 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 888 Snapdragon 865 Plus Snapdragon 865 Plus Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB
RAM 12GB, 16GB 12GB, 16GB 12GB 8GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB Up to 1TB No
Battery 5,000 mAh 5,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 4,300 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No No No
Special options IP68 score, 5G-enabled, 100x Space Zoom, 10W wi-fi charging, 10x optical zoom 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh charge; 100x zoom; water-proof (IP68) 120Hz display screen refresh charge, 5x optical zoom, 120Hz show; UWB sharing, S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water-proof (IP68) S Pen stylus; 5G connectivity; Wireless PowerShare; water-proof (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,200 (128GB), $1,250 (256GB), $1,380 (512GB) $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB) $1,300 (128GB), $1,450 (512GB) $1,000
Price (GBP) £1,149 (128GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,329 (512GB) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB) £1,179 £849 (4G) and £949 (5G)
Price (AUD) AU$1,849 (128GB), AU$1,949 (256GB), AU$2,149 (512GB) AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB) AU$1,849 (4G) and $AU$1,999 (5G) AU$1,499 (4G) and AU$1,649 (5G)

First printed Jan. 21.

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