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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review: Bigger Can Be Better

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is none other than the big brother of the S21 series. Recently unveiled at the Galaxy Unpacked 2021 event, the smartphone quickly made its way to the Malaysian market. We’ve tested and reviewed the smaller Galaxy S21 5G, and this time we have the ultimate flagship of the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G – Specifications

SpecsSamsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Display6.8-inch Edge QHD+
Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Infinity-O Display (3200×1440), 515ppi, HDR10+ certified
Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate (10~120Hz)
Eye Comfort Shield
Dimension and WeightDimensions: 75.6×165.1×8.9mm
Weight: 227g
Camera[Front camera]
40MP Phase Detection AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 0.7 µm

[Rear camera]
Quad camera
Ultra Wide: 12MP Dual Pixel AF, FOV 120°, F2.2, 1.4µm
Wide-angle: 108MP Phase Detection AF, FOV 83°, OIS, F1.8, 0.8µm
Telephoto 1: 10MP Dual Pixel AF,
Optical 3x, FOV 35°,OIS, F2.4, 1.22µm
Telephoto 2: 10MP Dual Pixel AF,
Optical 10x, FOV 10°,OIS, F4.9, 1.22µm
100X Space Zoom
Laser AF Sensor
CPUSamsung Exynos 2100
Memory
12GB RAM (LPDDR5) with 256GB internal storage
16GB RAM (LPDDR5) with 512GB internal storage
Battery5,000mAh
ChargingImproved wireless charging speeds with Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
USB PD 3.0 (PPS) certified Fast Charging for wired charging (AFC and QC2.0 compatible)
OSAndroid 11
Network and ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E
5G NSA/SA, Sub6
Ultra Wideband
PaymentNFC, MST
AuthenticationUltrasonic Fingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor
Proximity sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
AudioDual Audio
Scalable Codec
Water ResistanceIP68

Design

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has the exact same design as its sibling, except it has a much larger real estate, featuring a much larger screen taking up more space on your palms. The camera bump, especially, is more pronounced as it is thicker and larger to accomodate the two extra camera modules and LED flash.

Being the heaviest out of the series, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G weighs 229g. On paper, it sounds heavy but when I actually held it in my hands, it feels lighter than expected. That’s probably because of its thinness on the bottom half of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

It still has that poised finesse with the curved edges and smooth finish back, the seamless curve of the camera bump that merges perfectly with the side of the phone. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is a really beautiful smartphone to look at, and a comfortable one to hold.

Physical buttons wise, on the right you’ll find the power and volume buttons, while the SIM tray, speaker, and USB Type-C port can be found at the bottom.

Display

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

I loved the Samsung Galaxy S21’s display, and I love it even more on the S21 Ultra. The display has got to be one of the best features of the phone, and with the S21 Ultra having a larger screen real estate at 6.8-inch, there’s just more to love. It has a higher QHD+ resolution, and it uses the Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel which allows for an adaptive refresh rate (10Hz – 120Hz) to improve battery efficiency. On the top, there’s the Infinity-O notch that houses the 40MP selfie sensor. But it’s rather small, so you don’t really notice it.

Image quality wise, visuals are much brighter and you can actually see the crispness if you paid close attention. Watching movies or chilling on Netflix is an absolute pleasure because not only are you getting a much larger screen, you’ll also be enjoying them with a HDR10+ certified display. There’s no light bleeding, colours are reproduced accurately and vividly, with the blacks looking very black.

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User Experience

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

After using the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G for a couple of weeks, it was nice to be using a smaller phone for once, it felt like a breath of fresh air where it seems most people are hunting for the largest phone display possible. But once I had the S21 Ultra in my hands, I realized how much I missed large displays and how relatively small the device felt in my hands. Sure, it does have a 6.8-inch display, but it felt like it left a smaller footprint in my hands. I could still type with one hand, and reachability is still fairly good with Samsung’s One UI 3.0 features.

I’ve mentioned this before and I will mention it again, higher refresh rates on smartphones are the way to go forward. It’s the easiest way to improve the overall user experience on a smartphone, and it gives the most user satisfaction as the screen is the first element the user interacts with when they turn on or use the phone on a daily basis. Every swipe, every flick on the S21 Ultra’s screen just feels naturally responsive and smooth, and it certainly feels better than navigating on Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max. As if having 120Hz refresh rate wasn’t good enough, Samsung even automatically dials it down to lower refresh rates to help you save battery.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

The power and volume buttons are still placed on the right side of the phone, leaving the other sides seamless. The colour variant we have is the Phantom Silver version, while it still does have a matte finish on the back and a good overall grip, it’s still prone to some fingerprints. As a result, I’d always have to wipe it off or throw on a case.

Performance

Just like the Galaxy S21, it is equipped with the latest Exynos 2100 processor. The smartphone easily cruises through daily usage experience and in benchmarks. Samsung’s new Exynos truly made a breakthrough for the processor front. There have never been any lag or screen freezes in my use experience. However, I did find that when I swipe up to return home, it would sometimes register an extra flick to bring up the app drawer. However, this isn’t a processor issue, but mostly the touch sampling rate being too sensitive. Hopefully, this gets fixed in the future with an OTA update.

Here are some of the benchmarks we’ve done on the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G with 3DMark and GeekBench 5.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the flagship device of the series, meaning it has the best camera system of the three devices. Featuring a 108MP main sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide angle sensor, two 10MP telephoto sensor, and a laser AF sensor, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera doesn’t mess around when it comes to mobile photography or videography.

The 108MP main sensor takes incredibly crispy photos with lots of details. Images appear bright and vivid with the right amount of light, and the white balance is adequate. It also supports up to 10x optical zoom, and Space Zoom of up to 100x. Zooming so far in, the Zoom Lock feature is definitely helpful as it locks on whatever you’re capturing, as long as you stay still for two seconds while zoomed in.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra also has OIS on the main, and both telephoto sensors, which makes it a great video camera when you’re recording on these sensors. The OIS does a great job at stabilizing the video, resulting in really steady handheld footage. This works out well if you’re recording some home video, or even Instagram Stories.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review: Bigger Can Be Better 27
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

As for the camera UI, it’s still as snappy and there is no shutter delay at all. The transition between modes still has a slight delay, but it’s definitely not a dealbreaker. The improved Single Take feature is great to work with, especially with the new capture modes added.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

A big upgrade from the S21 is the 40MP selfie sensor on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Selfies are captured in higher resolution, but the beautification processing dials it down a little so your skin condition doesn’t look “too clear” but still maintains a natural look.

Here are some of the photo samples we took with the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G:

Audio

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review: Bigger Can Be Better 59

Just like the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G, the Ultra nails the audio department once more. It still has a stereo speaker setup, and it still performs excellently. If I were to play music for you from the phone, you’d think it was from a full-fledged Bluetooth speaker. There is a great amount of clarity with the highs being bright, and the mids offering rich vocals. The same goes for sound isolation, where every frequency is well separated and they don’t sound muddy.

I must say, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G does sound a little louder than the Galaxy S21. Playing music at 100% volume, it sounds louder and there’s still no distortion no matter the genre I’m playing. As for bass, it is still very well-managed and there were no distortion no matter low or dirty the bass goes. I was expecting a little more thump with the S21 Ultra’s speakers, but I’d say it’s almost the same as the S21.

Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

Now, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has been an amazing smartphone to use on the daily, it’s got great hardware and features, but when it comes to the battery, it’s quite lackluster. Despite having a larger 5,000mAh battery to work with, battery life has been the only issue I worry about with the S21 Ultra.

On a day-to-day basis, with casual usage, I could get a whole day’s worth of battery, but I’d be cutting it really close as I’d only have about 10% battery left at the end of the day. In the morning, when I wake up I would scroll on social media and catch up on some emails, but even that would already take up almost 10% of the battery life. When I play a game for about an hour, that takes up 25% of the battery.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

As for phone settings, I do have the resolution set to only FHD, refresh rate is still at adaptive, and the always on display is turned on 24/7. I do hope that Samsung will eventually improve the battery performance, seeing how the S21 could manage battery more efficiently.

Using our own Ugreen 65W GaN charger, the Galaxy S21 Ultra could be charged from zero to 100% in about an hour and a half. It also supports wireless charging, which is why I’ve ditched the cable, even if it meant slower charging speeds (compared to wired).

Conclusion

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is an amazing smartphone which performs excellently on almost all fronts. Sure, the battery may not perform as long as expected, but it’s nothing a simple OTA update can’t fix or optimize in the future.

The Exynos 2100 is still a wonderful processor that powers the device, along with a full-fledged camera system that captures great photos and videos. To top it all off, the display is what you’re going to fall in love with in the first place. Navigation is smooth and everything you look at on the S21 Ultra’s screen just looks marvellous.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review: Bigger Can Be Better 27

If you’re looking to get the best of the best from Samsung right now, I’d say the Galaxy S21 Ultra is your best bet. Unless of course, you’re looking for something more unconventional, then there’s the Galaxy Z Fold2 to consider. But if you prefer something smaller without any compromise on the performance, you could also go for the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus.

With every pre-order, you’ll receive a free Galaxy Buds Live, a Galaxy SmartTag, and a Samsung Wireless Charger Trio. That is insane value if you already have the budget to splurge on a flagship smartphone.

By the way, the S21 series now also comes in a 128GB storage variant, which makes it even more affordable if you don’t mind having lesser storage space.

StorageModelRRPColour Availability
128GBGalaxy S21 5GRM3,499Phantom Gray
128GBGalaxy S21+ 5GRM3,999Phantom Violet
128GBGalaxy S21 Ultra 5GRM4,999Phantom Black

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review: Bigger Can Be Better 27
Written By

Chief Content Developer at The AXO

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