[First Cut] Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Ultra in every way

Looking to be the best Android out there

by: - Last updated on: January 17th, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra follows the footsteps of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, packing in the biggest display and most powerful cameras in the range.
  • The cameras also are the most interesting part of the design of the S21 Ultra, which also comes in a new color, Phantom Black.
  • In spite of a steep price tag, the S21 Ultra comes without a charger in the box, in keeping with current “trends.”
  • The biggest attractions of the phone are likely to be its cameras, with two telephoto sensors and 100x digital zoom on board!

You know, if HE had been around, he would have said:

The biggest phone.
The biggest display.
The biggest camera.
The biggest…everything…

Are you getting me?

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He would have been right too. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is Samsung throwing the kitchen sink in an attempt to create one, uber-super smartphone. It had tried the same last year as well, but the S20 Ultra had tripped up on some camera issues and had taken some flak for a relatively routine design. The S21 Ultra looks to steer clear of those, even while retaining the “this is the best of everything” feels.

The boss of the S21 range!

For, make no mistake about it – in terms of sheer spec weight, the S21 Ultra is not just the boss of the S21 range but lays down a benchmark for all premium Android phones. Shades of the iPhone 12 Pro Max? Well, perhaps. But since when was THAT a bad thing. We know that there will be the inevitable outcry over the pros and cons of the Exynos processor, but judging from our experiences with the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra, that chip is capable of doing some very heavy lifting. The benchmark bros might not like it that much, but at the end of the day, if it runs smoothly, we do not seem too many general consumers wailing in the complaint.

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And a lot of heavy lifting is what the Exynos 2100 will have to do. There is that 6.8-inch quad HD Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120 Hz refresh rate that can adjust its refresh rate according to the content being played on it. And most of all, there are those cameras at the back.

Camera magic beckons

The S20 Ultra had tried to add a totally new dimension to phone photography with its formidable camera array with massive zooms and detail but had been undone by some focusing issues.

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The S21 Ultra attempts to do the same, but with a very different camera array. There is a large 108-megapixel sensor with OIS, two 10 megapixel telephoto sensors (both with OIS), and a 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor. There is a whole lot of photographic and video stuff that can be unleashed through these, but most notable is the fact that you can get up to a staggering 100x digital zoom, and support for 8K video (good luck finding a display that supports it, though – even 4K is rare right now). Of course, Samsung has added a whole lot of shooting options to the cameras, so whatever you lack, it will not be options. Samsung claims that everything from zooms, to portrait shots to low light shots to videos has been improved, and given the brand’s formidable track record, it would not be wise to doubt its claim.

Phantom Black, with Batmobile feels

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The cameras also contribute to a design that is going to be divisive. We love the black (Phantom Black) that Samsung has brought into the equation, so so reminiscent of the black we had got on the iPhone 7 (not the 7 Plus, which was a scratch and dust magnet) which gives the range an amazingly classy look. But the jutting out metal camera unit is going to polarise folks into those who like it and those who feel that it is like a metal plate that sticks out way too far. No matter which way you look at it, however, the S21 Ultra will be spotted in a crowd – whether it stands out or sticks out, depends on your perception.

There will also be some talk about its size. Like its predecessor, the S21 Ultra is many things, but compact is not one of them. This is a slab of a phone and at 165.1 mm height is one of the taller ones around (the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 160.8 mm tall) and at 227 grams, is pretty heavy as well. That said, it is built like a tank with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and IP68 dust and water resistance. Plonk it on a table and you get such Batmobile feels (it is more Batman Black than its Phantom Black name!)

It has everything…except a charger…and STILL could be THE one

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It has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a premium Android flagship too – stereo speakers, a big 5000 mAh battery with support for 25W charging and speedy wireless charging as well, a big 40-megapixel selfie camera, Knox security, an improved in-display fingerprint scanner, 5G connectivity, Android 11 (with Samsung’s OneUI on top), massive RAM and storage variants (12 GB/ 256 GB and 26 GB/ 512 GB) and even support for the Samsung stylus, the S-Pen (although it is not bundled with the device). And in a rather modern premium flagship form, it also gets rid of the charger and earbuds in the box and has no expandable memory, both of which are not deal-breakers but will still hurt, especially when you consider the starting price of Rs 1,05,999.

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At that price point, it actually has just one real competitor – the biggie from Cupertino. Of course, there will be comparisons. And evaluations as to whether it delivers enough for that price tag – it certainly has what it takes in spec terms, but does it deliver on them? Let’s see once again:

The biggest phone.
The biggest display.
The biggest camera.
The biggest…everything…

We got you. Now to see how it all works. This could be THE Android phone of the year. Could.

Stay tuned for details.

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